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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
No white Elephant for Stripes

by Chris Charles
BBC News Online

Meg and Jack White
The band were massively hyped in the UK in 2001

The White Stripes release the follow-up to their award-winning breakthrough album, White Blood Cells.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, so opined Samuel Johnson.

For The White Stripes, the party is just beginning.

The significance of choosing to record their fourth studio album in England's capital cannot be overplayed.

Brimming with zest and vitality, Elephant is as aggressive and tortured as an early morning journey into work.

And yet it makes time to tarry a while and seek out the pools of calm lurking just beneath the surface.

As all the "next big things" arrive and disappear in a blaze of their own publicity, the Stripes have declined to keep up with the Jones' and instead adopted that other old adage - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


True, Elephant has switched up a gear from White Blood Cells, embracing fresh ideas in the same way that its predecessor journeyed back to basics after De Stijl.

Nevertheless, it remains as comforting as a pair of your old slippers - or red trousers if you prefer.

The album is peppered with references to all things English, from cricket to cups of tea.

There is even a mention for dear old Queenie in Seven Nation Army - which finds Jack seeking a way out from international superstardom, helped by a driving pseudo bass and unforgiving guitars.

Black Math and There's No Home For You Here offer more of the same - arguably the two missing punk singles from the forgotten archives of 1977.

For every burst of freneticism, however, there is a period of quiet reflection - a bit like the drunk bloke in the pub whose mates have just left.


Meg's rare solo outing on Cold, Cold Night is basically Fever, with licks replacing clicks, while Jack's version of Dusty Springfield's I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself is as gorgeous as his treatment of Jolene.

Heartbreak and relationship angst provide the running theme - and to illustrate the wild swings in musical direction, you only have to listen to The Air Near My Fingers - the nearest thing to a pop song The White Stripes will ever write.

Each time you hear it, you hope it won't sound like the Beautiful South, but it still does - and it is still good.

Throughout the album there are nods to days gone by, from the Psycho Killer bassline of No Home to the hammed up vocals on Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine, which suggest Jack has been listening to a bit of Sweet in his spare time.

But the track which sums up the whole squalid bluesy existence of the Stripes is Ball And Biscuit.

It is Muddy Waters meets Led Zeppelin all the way - harking back to the days when R&B meant a bearded band in a smoky boozer, with Double Diamond on tap and roast potatoes on the bar.

Forget all these other dreamers, kids - the White Stripes are the real deal and despite what it says on the marriage certificate, they will always be your brother and sister.

Elephant is on XL Recordings.

Hear a clip from I Don't Know What To Do With Myself

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04 Dec 01  |  Entertainment
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17 Oct 01  |  Entertainment
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07 Aug 01  |  Entertainment

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