The White Stripes - Elephant - Review
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critics' view

Band of the moment, the saviours of rock'n'roll… something to write about in an age of musical mediocrity?

The White Stripes can be seen as all of the above. The hype around the release of this fourth album has gone on and on, the critics' saliva abundant. Finally it's here. Can it really change the course of mankind as we know it? Let's see.

The music is mainly some sort of blues-derived rock; gentle some of the time and very loud and explosive most of the time. There's a great cover of Bacharach's I Dont Know What to Do With Myself, moments of intense punk rock (Hypnotise) and a comedy ballad at the end. You're not going to get bored.

The album was recorded in east London and Jack White's holding a cricket bat on the cover, so maybe it's not surprising that a lot of the album sounds very English.

The heavy riffs here are just so early Led Zeppelin. Quite often Jim even sings like an Englishman pretending to be an America, and on In the Cold, Cold Night Meg speaks and (unlike her drumming) comes across all fey and, well, sort of pre-Raphaelite in a down-town Motor City kind of way.

And it's all so divinely confident, so sexy. In that sense it is better than the first three albums (which weren't exactly meek). Whatever they say in public, this is a band which loves been loved, almost as much as it loves making music - and the pair like that quite a lot.

At the centre of the musical drama lies the relationship between Jack and Meg, Jack likes to strut and shout, proclaiming that he is the seventh son, but he's dancing to the lady's beat. (Quite literally.) If it's true that the pair used to go out together, rather than being brother and sister as they once claimed, splitting up has never sounded so good.

What else can one say in their favour? They don't take drugs and they don't do yoga; they even seem to like themselves for what they are. Strange, camp blues-rock might just be able to save the world; all we need to do is believe.

Matt Harvey
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading. external-link.png

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