Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Icky Thump

[Icky Thump cover, picture credited to Autumn de Wilde.]

Is it actually possible to be a pimp and a prostitute, too? Why do redheaded women have it out for Jack White? Can you really turn the effect into the cause? These are the deep, philosophical questions that the White Stripes new album Icky Thump will make you ponder.

Well, they might if you're stoned while listening to it, anyway.

I pretty much fell in love with the album from the first few chords of the title track, though there isn't a single other song on the album that sounds even vaguely like it. This is a good thing, in my opinion. The album works as a whole, but there's no unified sound theory driving it. Their cover of Conquest has a delicious mariachi twist, while Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn is very obviously going for a Scottish theme. They're not going to shock you unless you're completely unfamiliar with the duo, but they won't bore you, either.

My main complaint about the Stripes has always been the lyrics. While I love listening to Jack sing, what he's singing about is pretty secondary to how it sounds. Which hardly makes a song unworthy to listen to. I'd rather go for a lyrically weak song that sounds good than somebody's political treatise set to a triangle and bongos. Unless the drummer is really good, anyway. The fact that the lyrics are a little more complex than usual without sacrificing the music helped a lot with this album and are why this is probably going to end up being my favorite White Stripes album of all.

As I really have no great passion for the Raconteurs--Jack White's new band--this album gives me a special sort of joy. The classic elements of the Stripes are all here, but it doesn't sound like fan service to try to wring a few more dollars out of our pockets. It truly sounds like it was a hell of a lot of fun to record. Years of experience have added a robustness to their sound that was lacking in the early days, but it doesn't have the cynical, formulaic vibe that might be expected from a group that was essentially entirely defunct last year.

This is the audio equivalent of hooking back up with your hot ex-boyfriend. You know each other. It's comfortable and fun, with the added bonus of him having learned a few new tricks since last time.

No comments: