White Stripes
White Stripes
White Stripes – An “Elephant” Never Forgets

Let’s get one thing straight from the off: Simon Price is a prick. So are 95% of the hacks that have reviewed this record.

As Jack White himself will tell you: the first LP is the best. The one you will never be able to stain (hey, Jack, that’s a great song title – wanna buy it?). So what the fuck do we need “Elephant” for?

“This Album is dedicated to, and is for, and about the death of the sweetheart. In a social plane, impossible to exist, and in memories, past deafening present.” – so claim the “possibly ironic” sleeve notes. So what?

In a funny kind of way, it’s almost satisfying to watch Jack White wiggle & squirm under the harsh rays of a spotlight he flirts with constantly, but in private would claim not to notice. In a funny kind of way he’s almost as desperate as the clones he has inspired (the ones who sacked their bass player, piano player, drummer in an attempt to catch the “minimalist flow”). In a funny kind of way there ain’t a great deal of difference between “Elephant” & “Keep On Your Mean Side” after all. That begs the question – have The Kills raised their game - or has ladies man Jack White gotten all lazyfied on our arses?


bollox record sleeve
“Elephant” opens up like a fresh wound, clinically treated in an exclusive ward of an expensive private hospital, but a fresh wound all the same. Everyone knows about it, shrieks Jack, “from the Queen of England to the hounds of hell”. “Seven Nation Army” – Tiff Stuck-Up wasn’t wrong about the sound – just how they made it (surely you’ve read the acres of waffle about this in the other serious reviews elsewhere?). Oh yeah – either Jack has a new gtr tech - or he’s been hanging out with Brian May now that Billy Childish has revealed his ambivalence.

“Black Math” makes the most of the tune to “Fell In Love With A Girl” - but Jack does his best to spoil it all by trying way too hard with the vocal.

“There’s No Home For You Here” could possibly be the point where the wheels fall off for you (my personal moment of epiphany came when I saw the Stripes live for the 1st time & had to chain smoke all the way through just to stay awake) – it “borrows” the chord structure & part of the tune to “Dead Leaves In The Dirty Ground” & invites Brian May round for a touch of close quarter barber’s shop harmony practice (told you they were buddies).

“Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” is an ill -advised “reading” of The Dusty adopted version of the Bach & Dav “classic”. They’ve tried very hard to bolster the whole thing up with shards of fuck off gtr - but it still sounds like Ian Dury attempting “Joe Le Taxi” backed by Test Department (ok, so the analogy was funnier that the truth – but you get my drift?).

Meg sings “In The Cold, Cold Night” in the grand tradition of the much celebrated Hicksian Ringo-factor (did you know Bill Hicks had a roadie that set all his cigarettes, ash-trays, bottles & microphones up? And in all that time he was never allowed to read one of Bill’s jokes out – either live, or on record! Can you believe that?). The words Mo & Tucker have been mentioned in a mainstream attempt to smother this waffle in VU mystery – fact is: this sounds like Bill Hicks cleaner singing her cleaning products wish list.

The re-write continues with “I Want To Be The Boy..etc” that “liberates” the chord progression & tune to “Dead Leaves In The Dirty Ground” in much the same way as W & “Our Tone” are currently “liberating Iraq”. Jack is either being post-ironic or just damn lazy – either way it’s so infuriating it doesn’t deem comment (maybe I should go dig out my review of “Dead Leaves..”).

“You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” is the final proof – if any were needed – that deep inside the spirit of Jack White lives the Ghost Of Macca Past. This is so conventional it deserves it’s own covention: GOT HER IN YR POCKETEX 2003 – can’t wait – book early to avoid disappointment.

“Ball & Biscuit” continues Jack’s obsession with the number 7 – uuum, & Led Zeppelin. I got bored with this cut before it got to the heavily stylised 70s RAWK gtr solo. Just think – for a while back there – this kind of paltry tossed-off muso fret-wankery was up there with playing cricket with Genesis or fishing with Roger Daltry. No matter what you lot might like to think – some things never change – the song, along with the whole damn industry, remains resolutely the same - & “Ball & Biscuit” is it’s theme tune.

“The Hardest Button To Button” runs that old “is it a geetar? – is it a bass?” trick past our blind side – before forgetting to write a song. Some have said; “This is difficult – give it time to grow on you”. We say: “Lazy is as lazy does”.

“Little Acorns” provides momentary relief – a sampled US voice reads a marriage damage report as apposed to an air force damage report – before Jack turns the geetar up & knocks out that Jimi impression one more time. More of an exercise in showing off, than a song.

Hurrah – “Hypnotise” is here – it’s a bit like “Black Math” (which was a bit like “Fell In Love With A Girl”, remember, attention fans?) – except it – wait for it – uses a new chord sequence. Once you’ve gotten over that – that’s it.

“The Air Near My Fingers” works that ole familiarity magic - also. Can’t quite put my finger on it (they all wash over & bleed into one – no, not the tracks on “Elephant” – but all FOUR White Stripes LPs) – but we’ve been here before.

“Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” is another wonderful title just crying out for a song. Trouble is, Jack just can’t seem to be bothered.

Closer, “Well, It’s True We Love One Another”, is an audacious attempt to drag some desperately needed “credibility” (i.e. – “anti”-famous English friends) on board “Elephant” that fails so miserably it sounds like they’re making it up as they go along. Believe you me – you will NEVER listen to this pile of whimsical shit again.

Over long, over produced, over the blues & over here. “Elephant” may feature equipment no younger than 1962 (& we all know what a good year for the roses that was) – “Elephant” may be produced by in demand producer Liam Watson – “Elephant” may be draped in some of the most sumptuous packaging this side of ART – but “Elephant” sucks like the owner of a massive trunk – which is quite possibly the point – after all.

Sympathy for the record industry? Yeah, I don’t see why not – I mean, it’s the participants & not the actual industry that lets you down – time after time after time. Right?

Jean Encoule – 03/03


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