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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The White Stripes
Icky Thump

Rating: 8.2/10 ?

June 20, 2007
Anyone who really bought into the February 2007 Rolling Stone article singing John Mayer's praises as a guitar god not only forgot how the magazine sold out decades ago but also forgot about the unpardonable sins of Your Body is a Wonderland. With Icky Thump Mayer's baby steps toward credibility have, once again, been outclassed in technique, composition and overall badass blues riffs. After a brief respite and romp with Brendan Benson under the flag of the Racounteurs, Jack White has rejoined longtime partner Meg in a crusade to take their place as the torchbearers of uncompromising hard blues rock.

No, their latest effort is not as good as their watershed 2005 release Get Behind Me Satan, but it's pretty damn close. The Stripes' sixth release, Icky Thump finds Jack's vocals rarely sharing the stage with Meg's at all. The leadoff title track's predominant riff seems like it could've been culled from the scraps on the floor of the cutting room during the Led Zeppelin II sessions, but the song's vocals are simply maxed out with Jack's nasal delivery. The song is salvaged by White's axe-wielding, which could be summed up as reckless abandon.

"Bone Broke" is another uncompromising piece of vintage Stripes material. It brings echoes of the duo's early 45s and in fact was written by Jack White in 1998 for a four-piece band that never recorded it. The driving riff announces itself with its relentless, Yardbirds-style rave-up. I would never - like Rolling Stone - say that the old guitar masters should move over and bow to the new blood, because that'd be stupid, but I will say that at times White evokes the most driving, tense moments of Zeppelin's gunslinger, and it is this kind of swagger that aggressively declares the band's retro-neo rocker homage.

Jack shows his proficiency with various guitar styles with an authenticity that John Mayer could only dream of hitting. In a display of musical versatility, "Catch Hell Blues" begins with a beautiful acoustic slide blues riff before slowly melding back into the romp and stomp style of the previous tracks. The track slowly builds as Meg White's relentless drumming turns it into yet another rollicking raver. Meg's vocals do finally show up in a Stonesy ramblin' "Rag and Bone," the title of which refers to an English name for junk collectors. Meg and Jack narrate the joyous occasion as a garbage picker fortuitously finds a stash of junk, their chorus melding nicely into the crescendo and the guitar part sounding so thoroughly vintage that Keith Richards himself would be proud.

Considering that the keyboards were thoroughly explored with Get Behind Me Satan, the only thing missing with Icky Thump is a distinctly new genre turn. Getting back to their Scottish folk roots, "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" features Jim Drury on bagpipes and Meg's percussion pulled back to tambourines and claps. Jack displays some of his most poetic lyric brilliance - "Well the hills are pretty and rollin'/ But the thorn is Sharp and swollen/ And the man plays a beautiful whistle/ But he wears a prickly thistle" - providing the feel of a Robert Burns poem set to music. In contrast, "St. Andrew (This Battle Is In the Air)" is a bit more of an untrodden adventure, it's avante-garde flourishes giving Jack more time to meld his guitar with the bagpipes. The lyrics remain quite obtuse, but the sonic textures add a new layer to the kettle.\

At 48 minutes, Icky Thump has enough genre-hopping, rip-roaring tunes to get even the 70s rock purist nodding his head again. At times Jack's nasal croon seems a bit squished in between fiery guitar riffs, but the music is so strong and varied that all artists at the top of their craft should really take a moment to appreciate the potency of his chops. Not only has he proven prolific at writing songs in blues/folk/rock vein, but he can tear up a staggering solo at will. At one point Keith Richards remarked that he couldn't believe Jimmy Page hadn't hired another guitarist. Jack White does it without any other stringed instrument players at all, and handles the vocals to boot. Icky Thump is, without question, on par with Elephant and it affirms Detroit as rock city, if only for one band.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

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