The White Stripes - Icky Thump or: What the hell would you want in Hell? 
Sunday, 01 .July, 2007, 14:23 - English Entries, Music
It's my third day of listening to the new White Stripes Album "Icky Thump". From finding out that it will come out to finally finding it in my mail it took over three weeks, during which I was wondering whether Jack and Meg would manage to make some sort of step forward after their last album "Get Behind Me Satan". I will save you from my praise for the band as such and the music they made so far - I'll maybe come to this at another point in time and space. Let's go through the new album.

The Songs

You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told) sounds like a song from the good old 80's that was pushed into a puddle of mud, kicked from all sides and finally got stripped off all unnecessary effects. The song did not get any more intelligent lyrics due to that, but most likely we should not ask for that and just let the music let have it's turn. A good song - but it makes me a bit afraid: is that all, that they will do on this album? Enriching existing styles?

From a song titled 300 M.P.H Torrential Outpour Blues one would not expect to start soft and gentle and basically going on with this for about five and a half minutes. There are sequences when Jack gets serious, which usually he does by avoiding singing and letting his Guitar do the work and Meg hits on the drums and the world is just a good place. Here we have a true blues, that makes his way straight to the listeners nervous systems and rattles it around. Other bands can do that as well, but the style is really White Stripes and the lyrics are touching and rich of metaphors that never miss the point. Well done.

Well done, indeed, that becomes even more clear, when Conquest starts. Even after listening to this for several times, I cannot stand this song. It is in a not acceptable style pathetic and overdone and anyhow it seems to be a cover, at least I think I know the song. Just jump to the next song and use the joker on this.

Bone broke is wild, confused, hard - a good rock song, no doubt about that. But we are not here to listen to everyday Rock'n'Roll, we want to know whether Jack and his sister are worth to play high up on mount Olympus or whether they are already on their way down from there.

So next song: Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn. Don't listen to the lyrics - they do not help at all, at least not in the first place. The song just open the windows to the meadows and hills of some Sunday morning country, over which we can jump and la-la-la sing and the angels, in which we do not believe anymore, fly around us, together with the fairies and the air is fresh and everything, just everything is so intensive and green and lai-di-lai-oh-ho. Listen to it twice and your brain will be in this half-retarded, half-childish state, that everybody needs every now and then and then just go on and read the lyrics. Yes, right, they do not surprise you anymore. Lai-di-Lai-oh-oh. I like it - some may hate it.

Prickly Thorn fades over into St. Andrew (This Battle Is in The Air) in which we hear a piper (he most likely comes straight from the green hills of the last song, but he must have sniffed something strange inbetween) and Meg talks stuff and then there is the drum and every time we hear the guitar, we somehow understand, that the friendly Lai-di-lai-oh-ho has turned into a severe nightmare. It only lasts 1:49 minutes, but it leaves you with something to chew on.

And then Jack counts "1, 2, 3,4" and Little Cream Soda starts. Here we go - there is no doubt left anymore, these are the White Strips and we are in the middle of some kind of war or something similar. Nothing talks about the good things in life, besides when telling us, that they are over. Jack does not even try to sing here - he just sermons about the misery in his life, he complains about getting older and still keeps a straight attitude, without ever going into whining. Mount Olympus, they are coming!

Rag And Bone just goes on with being great. The two siblings have a little conversation and first it was not clear to me, what happened, but once I understood that they are breaking into peoples homes, I got the rest. Jack offers all the stuff that belongs to other people to his sister and they keep ranting along. It ends with a friendly recommendation to all those people owning stuff: "so lock it up, whatever you still want to own" - better do that, the White Stripes are coming and they are breaking in - no doubt about that anymore.

I'm Slowly Turning Into You is another love song that starts acceptably normal, offers a psychedelic chorus and then gos on to be a typical White Stripes song, including some guitar strangling, till it ends (slowly turning into you) in another "a-la-la a-la-la" repetition, a very different one from the lai-di-lai of "Prickly Thorn".

A Martyr For My Love For You is a sad song that knows it has to stay quiet, even when it lets out rage in some hard riffs. A well told story, a good piece of music, a blues that doesn't try to be anything more than a blues. Jack and Meg know they territory very well - there is not a single step out of it, they fully obey the frame that music sets them - but within these borders, they do everything possible.

Did I say Blues? Here's another one: Catch Hell Blues. They take 45 seconds to agree on what to make out of this song and then it rolls like a train on hard drugs. Jack finds it appropriate to start to "sing" after one and a half minute and he does things to the guitar that you better do not try at home, at least send the children to bed first. And back to the beginning, finding the way into the song again - and boom da da boom boom - let it roll. Another song to close your eyes, listen to it and play it again and afterwards you most likely just stay on "repeat song" for a while. Catch Hell, it's worth it.

And with Effect and Cause the album ends already, another blues - straight from first to last second, with Jack singing and nothing special happening. Perfect ending.

Did I miss something? Of course, the first song. Icky Thump - that is already played all over the charts. Breeding, aggressive, wild, dirty. Guitar, drums, voice - and in-between excursions to strange musical realms that are bordering to unacceptable noise. Also here, in all this hard driven, dark composition, Jack puts in his "alalalalala" and - how the hell did he do that? - it works. Icky Thump not only gave the album its title, it is also a blue print of it. It opens the door and shows you everything that you can expect. But you have to experience it all to really get it.


So what about it? Are the two siblings from Detroit now playing in the league of gods? Well, who cares? Jack and Meg obviously do not think at all about making their names live forever - they just hit drum and guitar and let the need for being special far behind them. Whatever they are, they are definitely divine.

Their sound does not give cheap elevations for a few moments of pleasure. Their lyrics are not comforting and more than once Jack finds it terribly uncool to get older and besides just getting on with it he has to offer no solution. Here's finally the guy who admits it: it's pure shit, so what?

The White Stripes rip open spots where the skin of music anyhow was thin and vulnerable, they play their heart blood into it and whatever was itching before, has lalalalala gone away afterwards. The retarded lalaling shows itself in different shapes and offers no stupid escape, it is the way to kick back on the world.

Icky Thump is no hippy sound, no intellectual high-fly and is for sure nothing easy to swallow for generation-E(soteric). Last time, they left Satan behind them, now they conquer his realm and if you do not want to go there after this album, you never were into Rock and Blues in the first place - so what the hell would you want in Hell?
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