White Stripes Continue to Impress

BERKELEY, Calif. – Jack White has things completely under control. In his world, however, this means that utter failure and chaos lurk right around the corner. For every album he’s made as one half of the White Stripes, he’s set limitations: 2001’s “White Blood Cells” couldn’t have guitar solos, 2003’s Elephant used no equipment made before 1960, and 2005’s “Get Behind Me Satan” was intentionally recorded while half the album’s songs remained unfinished. With this need for constraint and the chance of derailing his band’s success, Jack (along with “sister”/ex-wife Meg) has done pretty well for himself; six albums into the Stripes’ career, the band can sell out large-scale venues while garnering both album sales and critical acclaim.

So the question is, what shades of red and white can Jack conjure up on “Icky Thump”? Pre-release buzz mentioned the use of bagpipes, mariachi horns, vintage synthesizers and a big-studio budget. Although all of these things turned out to be true, the biggest shock on this album is the Stripes’ lack of restraint — “Icky Thump” is loose, wild and feels freer than the band’s last few records. From the title track onward, Meg and Jack spend 50 minutes going from folky numbers to freaky blues-metal and Troggs-ish pop .

“Icky Thump” is still Jack’s world — he hasn’t given up control of the Stripes, yet. His distinctive guitar work and songwriting still lies at the heart of the album, held aloft by Meg’s simple drumming. What this album proves is that when an artist lets go of the need for control, the result can be something weird, fantastic and moving. So maybe from now on, Jack White will embrace the chaos of doing whatever he wants — but as long as his records are as good as “Icky Thump,” that’s fine by me.

Article courtesy of the Daily Californian at UC-Berkeley

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