The White Stripes – Icky Thump

White Stripes

Well if anyone was holding out hope that the White Stripes would go back to the primal, stripped-down blues that they seemingly perfected circa White Blood Cells will be disappointed. Yes, the eclecticism that suffused their previous album Get Behind Me Satan has been toned down (Goodbye marimba solos), but The White Stripes do now appear to be Jack White’s real creative outpouring after the Raconteur’s commercial and critical success. So it’s hello again to blistering guitar solos (which were absent on the last album) and hello for the first time to bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes. Seems Jack is keen to embrace his Scottish heritage on this album. Considering most Scots would have been happy enough for him to just wear a kilt for his Scottish gigs, he’s gone all teuchter on us.

“Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn” is an ode to the thistle that’s jaunty enough, but then Meg White comes in an sings about “Saint Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)” and it lost me. But I suppose this is the newly married, Nashville based Jack White we’re talking about here. Seemingly more at ease with himself and his music (the band even recorded in a digital studio!), so the duo feels a bit looser and a bit more confident and playful. For example, the witty banter during the thumping “Rag and Bone”. The country rock of “Effect & Cause” sounds out of place at the start, until you hear the lyrics (a thinly-disguised attack on the supposed back-biters that forced Jack and Meg out of Detroit).

It’s hard to pick out the best track on the album, because for all it’s eccentricities, Icky Thump is a strong and cohesive album. Maybe 300mph Torrential Outpour Blues is the pick of the bunch. A distant cousin of Elephant’s “Ball & Biscuit”, that starts of gentle and contemplative before erupting with a ferocious guitar line. “Catch Hell Blues” is classic White Stripes though; pounding drums and Jack’s masterful guitar playing. It’s the simplest track and again highlights the White Stripes strength in (lack) or numbers.

White Stripes – Icky Thump:

 

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