ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Patrick Robertson

The White Stripes
"Elephant"

10th June 2005
reviewer: Patrick Robertson
rating: 4 out of 5
published by: XL Records
released: 31st March 2003
  1. Seven Nation Army
  2. Black Math
  3. There's No Home For You Here
  4. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself
  5. In The Cold Cold Night
  6. I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart
  7. You've Got Her In Your Pocket
  8. Ball And Biscuit
  9. The Hardest Button To Button
  10. Little Acorns
  11. Hypnotise
  12. The Air Near My Fingers
  13. Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine
  14. Well It's True That We Love One Another

The White Stripes. Do you love them or hate them? It’s unlikely you fall in between, and their special brand of defiantly simple lo-fi air-guitar anthems has earned them as many detractors as fans. They’ve only recently hit the big time in Britain, making Elephant a highly important album. Have they delivered the goods?

Jack and Meg White’s latest opus starts badly. In fact, it starts with the best song they’ve ever done. ‘Seven Nation Army’ is ominous, throbbing, powerful and irresistibly catchy all at once, a stormer of a first single and a definite contender for song of the year. And quite frankly, the rest of Elephant can’t keep up.

There are undeniable sparks of brilliance of this record – the driving, pumping beat of ‘The Hardest Button To Button’, the infectious rock-out riff of ‘Black Math’, and the gorgeous simplicity of ‘You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket’. But the Stripes’ attempt at “pacing” amounts to little more than clumping the slower, less conventional numbers in the middle of the album (‘In The Cold Cold Night’ to ‘Little Acorns’, inclusive) and it lags considerably as a result. And some songs just fall flat on their faces, like ‘Ball And Biscuit’, an excruciatingly dull 7-minuter about… well, nothing in particular. Nonetheless, there are far more hits than misses, and even the poor songs have something going for them.

Lyrically it’s decent, ranging from ‘There’s No Home For You Here’s endearing bitchiness ("I’ve not really been looking forward to the performance but there’s a cue and there’s a question on your face/Fortunately I have come across an answer which is: go away and do not leave a trace") to ‘The Air Near My Fingers’’ less-than-inspired quirkiness ("Life’s so boring/It’s really got me snoring").

"Take all your problems and rip them apart", sings Jack White in ‘Little Acorns’. It’s a shame the White Stripes didn’t do the same with this record. Not because it’s a ‘problem’, but because it could have done with some tweaking – extending ‘Hypnotise’, for example, and cutting ‘Ball and Biscuit’ off altogether. But despite this, ‘Elephant’ remains by and large a continuation of the White Stripes' quality. Well worth buying.