Review Summary: Finally introducing some variety, The White Stripes create their best album.
In 7th grade, my dad bought my brother and I Rock Band. I immediately fell in love with the drums, and started devoting a lot of my time to mastering the drums on Rock Band. I was getting quite skilled (mostly Expert), when an opportunity arose. My best friend was a bassist, and his band was in search of a drummer. I volunteered, and, with no experience on an actual drumset, went to band practice. The experiment failed miserably, mainly because the other member of the band didn’t like me, but something good came out of this entire situation. I started to appreciate music a lot more. Instead of just listening to Top 40 crap, I started asking around, looking for bands to listen to. At first, there were a few missteps (Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace were my favorite bands at first), but now I’ve developed a taste in music that I can be proud of.
Also, I started to listen for drums in the music. In turn, I really only liked bands with good drummers, with the exception of some classic bands (Pink Floyd, The Beatles). As a result, I avoided listening to The White Stripes for the longest time. I had heard terrible things about Meg White’s drumming abilities. However, I eventually caved, and bought White Blood Cells and this. While the former album is excellent, there is not much variety, and as a result, the album drags out a bit, especially towards the end. However, in this album, there is a plethora of styles. The variety on this album is incredible. There is pop rock, punk rock, jazz, blues, and garage rock.
This album had great commercial success, mainly thanks to the lead single and opening track, “Seven Nation Army”. It opens with what sounds like an incredibly catchy bass-line, but is actually guitar with some weird effect. The song was the perfect choice for a lead single, and is still played on the radio today. Some fans claim that the band “sold out” in making this track, along with “The Hardest Button to Button”, the second single. That track also charted well, though not as well as “Seven Nation Army”. However, I think that this is the band simply expanding on its previous sound and creating tracks to add a variety to the album. Both songs are excellent, though the latter is a bit better.
“Black Math”, a punk rock track, opens with a riff reminiscent of “The Greeting Song” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, great and energetic. “There’s No Home for You Here” is a definite highlight on the album. Quite similar to “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” off the previous album, the song starts loud, softens and slows, then gets loud again. Featuring some great lyrics like, “It’s hard to look you in the face when we are talking so it helps to have a mirror in the room,”, Jack spits out his vocals at a pretty alarming rate. The squealing guitar solo seals the song’s status as one of the best tracks on the album.
“I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” is a Burt Bacharach cover. Who in the world is Burt Bacharach"" I have no clue, but this song is pretty great. It starts out softly, and makes you think that this will be another song in the collection of White Stripes soft songs. However, when the chorus comes in, Jack starts screaming, and that hope goes away, but not sadly. What that track belies you into believing, “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” is. At 3:40, it’s quite long for an acoustic track. This may lead some people to think that this song is boring, but I think that it is the best soft song that this band has ever created.
“In the Cold, Cold Night” and “Ball and Biscuit” are two major anomalies in the album. The prior starts out with what I can describe only as a spy-sounding riff. It gets even weirder, as this is the first White Stripes track to feature just Meg on vocals. While the song itself isn’t anything extraordinary, in the flow of the album it works brilliantly. “Ball and Biscuit” comes after the acoustic “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket”, and is a definite highlight of the album. The entire song consists of a simple little riff and even simpler drums, some odd lyrics, then a guitar solo, then the sequence repeats. Jack White shows off his skills in this track, and he shows off quite a lot.
A major weak point in the album is “Little Acorns”. It starts off with some teacher-sounding like male giving an odd speech about a girl named Janet getting help from a squirrel. Some piano comes in the background. They start jamming, singing about the squirrel, but it doesn’t work at all. “Hypnotise” and the final track “It’s True that We Love One Another” are a couple more tracks that bring down the overall quality of the album, although they aren’t as bad as “Little Acorns”. “The Air Near My Fingers” is a quality track, involving some wonderful jazzy piano. However, the final 5 tracks are clearly a step, maybe two, down from the first 9.
Something more needs to be said about Meg White’s drumming. She can only play the simplest of beats, and fills are nonexistent. A lot of people think it detracts from the overall sound and quality of this band. However, the simplicity of it, for me, works for the sound of The White Stripes. This is mostly due to Jack White’s incredible musicianship on the guitar. Meg is incapable of playing anything harder than what she does on the drums. However, Jack plays his guitar in a style that maximizes the band’s potential and creates a fantastic sound.
Overall, this is an album that you should definitely buy, especially if you like The White Stripes, but for some reason, haven’t heard this album. This is definitely their best effort, which can be said definitively now because, sadly, they are no more. This is not the sound of The White Stripes selling out. This is the sound of The White Stripes evolving musically.
Seven Nation Army
There's No Home for you Here
I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself
You've Got Her in Your Pocket
Ball and Biscuit
The Hardest Button to Button
Final Rating: 4.4/5
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