Tuesday, May 07, 2013

White Stripes Elephant ... Ten Years Later & Show # 455

It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since Detroit’s The White Stripes released their fourth full length album Elephant. The year 2003 was a very different time, in the midst of the Garage Rock revival bands, The White Stripes had been making their brand of Garage Rock, blended with elements of Blues, Folk and Country since 1997, releasing several singles and three full length albums prior to this. The album played into the bands gimmick, two piece band donned in red, white and black colours, and the obssession with the number three. All of these things can be seen in the artwork for this album from the number three's on the back of the album to the front cover in which Jack and Meg site atop a trunk, making out an actual elephant shape. For Elephant, The White Stripes headed to London in the UK and recorded all but one track (“I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”) at Toe-Rag Studios with Liam Watson in the engineering seat and Jack White in the producing seat.

Elephant was recorded in a two week period in April of 2002 to eight track tape, using vintage recording gear that pre-dated The Beatles, no computers were involved for this albums recording process. During the two week time The White Stripes would record what would be their major label debut on V2 and also an album that would change their status as a band forever. The album opens with the chart topping hit “Seven Nation Army”, a song that was reportedly written at a sound check and attacked with its bass-like, drum/guitar dynamic. What most people at the time didn’t know is while it sounds like bass in the verses it was actually a guitar run through an octave pedal, an effect that fooled many. The song is most notable for its simple structure has a title that dates back to White’s childhood. “Seven Nation Army” is what Jack thought the Salvation Army sign said as a kid. With lyrics such as “I’m gonna fight ‘em off/A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back” White starts off the album with a new sense of anger that was previously not as evident on 2001’s White Blood Cells, while at the same time referencing the difficulty the band had in the past and determination to persevere in the present.

Elephant also had songs referencing Whites early Punk influences “Black Math”, “Hypnotize”, “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine”, his Pop influences “I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart”, “You’ve Got Her In Her Pocket” which along with “Well It’s True That We Love One Another” reflect Country/Folk influences, and there are also elements of Jack White’s Delta Blues influence that runs deep through out the album. Other stand out tracks include the other successful hit “The Hardest Button To Button” a driving Garage Drum/Guitar combination, utilizing the same guitar octave pedal effect as “Seven Nation Army” and is a song as Jack White has stated about “a child trying to find his place in a dysfunctional family when a new baby comes”. "Ball and Biscuit” is the closest that the band ever got to a “Bar Room Blues” track, clocking in at over seven minutes the song features heavy hitting drums by Meg White several distorted guitar solos and breakdowns. Lyrically the song tells a Folk-like tale of the seventh son, a common theme in American Folklore, and also referencing Jack White’s own history as he was the seventh son in his family. The title references the characters drug problem the “ball” being Cocaine and the “biscuit” being MDMA.

Of the Punk/Garage themed tracks “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” could be best described by one of the songs lyrics “Give me a sugar pill and watch me just rattle down the street”, as the song rattles in a frantic Garage stupor. “Little Acorns” is a peculiar song that starts off with an introduction from Mort Crim a news anchor from Detroit news television. The song builds from the intro with piano to loads of feedback not unlike sounds heard on Nirvana’s In Utero. Lyrically the song tells how a girl figured out how to solve her own life problems by watching a squirrel storing acorns for the winter. By breaking her problems into small pieces she figures out that she can carry her problems in small pieces one at a time, just like little acorns.

Overall, Elephant built on many of the sounds The White Stripes had been creating, picking up from where 2001’s White Blood Cells left off. Lyrically the album is loosely based on as stated in the linear notes the “death of the American sweetheart”, musically the album proves Jack White’s song writing abilities are nothing to scoff at. Whether a delicate Pop song like “I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart” or the 70s Garage Punk of “Black Math”, “Hypnotize” or the dynamic feedback frenzy of “Little Acorns” to the Country/Folk of “Well It’s True That We Love One Another”, Elephant carried its own weight. Prior to its release The White Stripes were talked about, but were always the elephant in the room so to speak that nobody addressed in any large scale means. Following Elephant’s release in April 2003, they were no longer the elephant in the room that no one was addressing, they overtook the room and became the only topic of conversation.

This Week's Play List:

1. The Nils – Tuesday High
2. The Smugglers – I Need A Vacation
3. DMZ – Baby Boom
4. Zona 84 – Estan Buscandrome
5. The Count Five – They’re Gonna Get You
6. The Stomach Mouths – Don’t Mess With My Mind
7. The Sonics – Wake Me, Shake Me
8. The Vibrants – Wildfire
9. The Golden Hands Before God – Oh No
10. The Scenics – Oh Boy
11. Brother Dan’s All Stars – Eastern Organ
12. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Midnight Ravers
13. Public Imaged Limited – Albatross
14. Gang of Four – Armalite Rifle
15. Sloan – Bully
16. Sloan – Gimme Sopor
17. The Damned – Melody Lee (BBC Session)
18. Young Rival – Time
19. Thee Oh Sees – Minotaur
20. White Stripes – Hypnotize
21. White Stripes – Little Acorns
22. White Stripes - Well It's True That We Love One Another

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for May 7. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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