The White Stripes Are No More – Revisiting “Elephant”

Today, The White Stripes announced that they are breaking up.  While I admit that I’ve gotten tired of them (I thought both Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump were lukewarm at best and the live show I saw remains one of the worst I’ve seen for various reasons – check back later in the week for an explanation and my list of worst concerts) Elephant, was and remains a brilliant record.

I didn’t know much about The White Stripes prior to Elephant, but the pre-release buzz surrounding the album seemed to suggest it would be special.  Most critics concluded that the album might as well come packaged with a sticker on the sleeve with the words: “instant classic”.

I was a junior in college when Elephant came out.  At the time, my campus seemed divided on those that opposed the war, and those in favor.  Elephant not only provided an escape, but it demanded it.  The guitar-blast after the second verse of  “Seven Nation Army” was like a flood-gate. It was old-school blues, but contemporary.  Past and present seemed to collide as the song faked a bass-line, that was actually a guitar. That wall of noise provided said more than any protest song could at the time, no matter what Conor Oberst thought.  On “Black Math”, Jack White may have sung like Robert Plant, but the blistering guitar solo was more akin to the Velvet Underground’s noisy jams on such songs as “What Goes On”.

That summer when I went to Italy, I probably burnt a hole in my copy of Elephant from listening to it non-stop as we took weekends bus trips.  “You Got Her in Your Pocket” is one of the quieter moments on the record, but its also one of the few times where Jack White puts lays off the noise, and reveals a haunting ballad thats akin to  The Rolling Stones “Under My Thumb”.  The rest of the biting lyrics I’ve always been partial to the line, “And in your own mind you’re lucky just enough to know her”.

Long live Elephant.

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