The White Stripes
There are musicians, there are artists, and then there is Jack White. It doesn't matter what band he's focusing his infinite energies into, whatever spews from the mind of Jack is never short on brilliance.
Icky Thump, the candy cane duo's big return after 2 years' hiatus many people feared was permanent, is their 6th and most ambitious full-length release since their eponymous debut in 1999. It's got the big guitar movements that should make Jimmy Page fear for his crown ("300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues "). Of course we've come to expect that from this band, that and the heart-pounding posing as amateur drum beats that have put Meg on the map, but this album also braves into territories previously off limits for the intentionally restricting world of The White Stripes.
First off, they recorded it in a modern studio (in Nashville) for the first time. Secondly, whereas past albums were minimalistic as a rule (though Get Behind Me Satan began bending the rules in terms of adding instruments into the mix), Icky Thump not only abandons blues garage punk on occasion for country twang, southern stoner rock ("You Don't Know What Love Is You Just Do What You're Told") and flamenco, but the pair hold up the flag of Scotland and thrown in some seriously traditional Celtic music! Oh yeah, those are bagpipes you're hearing in "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn!"
One thing about my beloved Stripes that I've been saying, to anyone who would listen, for years now is that a marriage between the music of Jack White and the cinema of Quentin Tarantino seems to be such an obvious beauty that I can't believe that it hasn't happened yet. Don't believe me? This album has got the proof in the song "Conquest" which could be slipped into any scene in Kill Bill or Death Proof -- or better yet -- into a yet-to-be-made Tarantino film in which Jack will handle the score. If I had power and influence, I would do everything I could to make this happen!
One of the defining characteristics of this band is their ability to straddle the complete serious side of musical skill with a childlike humorousness. As such, every one of their albums has that one goofy, cute little song that makes you smile. This year's song is "Rag & Bone," a playful song about yard sale hopping with plenty of dialogue between Jack and Meg.
Closing out this album, which I'm announcing right now to be the greatest release of 2007, is a Bob Dylan-esque folk song that highlights Jack's newly acquired southern accent (he recently moved from Detroit to Nashville) called "Effect and Cause." It's a wonderful wind down of a country blues tune that somehow, I must admit, also evokes Cinderella of all people! Never did I think I'd be making that comparison and I didn't even catch it myself; my girlfriend pointed it out to me and then had to prove by digging up an old hair metal mix from the '80s. And there it was, "Shelter Me" is the spitting image of "Effect and Cause." Sweet Jesus! Did I really just compare the greatest rock band of the last 20 years to Cinde-fuckin-rella?!
As I have stated in the past -- and it will forever hold true -- The White Stripes will go down as being one of the most important artists of the late 20th/early 21st Centuries. Albums like this are the reason why.