The Count… of Ten

by Alex Hern

I got bored doing merely a vaguely coherent grouping, and thought I start on an actual list. So, without further ado, I present my tenth album of the year:

The White Stripes with Icky Thump.

Named after a piece of Lancashire dialect picked up from Jack White’s English wife, recorded over a record breaking three weeks (their longest session so far), and released on memory sticks from a rechristened “Icky Thump Records” in Hollywood, Icky Thump was never going to be a normal album, even for the White Stripes. And much of what came out was new and bizarre.

The opening, eponymous track, was already different from anything the band had done before. Leaked a few months before the album came out, it was, and still is, odd. Minimal beyond what is usual for the stripped-down two piece, the verses are almost unaccompanied, with some bassy chords and a kick drum being the only things that keep Jack from getting lonely, except, of course, for the ‘full stops’ at the end of each line. The chorus doesn’t even exist; its a guitar solo.

And the album goes on from there. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told) sounds like a (really good) Raconteurs track. Conquest is a country cover (further proof that the White Stripes have abandoned their blues roots). Rag and Bone has Jack and Meg ad-libbing an odd cockney fantasy. St Andrew has bag pipes.

Some of the songs, particularly the singles (of which there have, so far, been three; Icky Thump, You Don’t Know What Love Is, and Conquest) are fantastic, but amongst the rest, there are some, which just sound, if not boring, a bit… B-sidey. I’m thinking particularly of 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues, which against the image conjoured up by its title, runs out of energy half way through. It’s rare in a White Stripes song, but you wonder why it hasn’t ended yet.

It must not, of course, be forgotten that this is a fantastic album. It is just an album that can’t live in your stereo (or now-playing list, or whatever) for very long. The oddity wears out, the lazy tracks start to drag. But for short visits – a listen hear, a listen there – it is easily deserving of a best of 2007 label.

The White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl (Acoustic) [MP3 Removed]
The White Stripes – Conquest [MP3 Removed]