The White Stripes- Icky Thump

Icky Thump is a strange title but this is a strange record, so it kind of fits. Opening with the title track a song that is never quite sure where the hell it’s going, it’s like ‘Seven nation army’ meets Led Zeppelin in a washing machine full of stones. Its absolute Stripes, Meg’s bomp bomp drumming Jacks screechy vocals and even squeakier guitar all with the strangest lyrics this side of Zappa. Thank goodness that the second track is a more straight forward beast its sounds like it could have been recorded with Jacks part time project ‘The Raconteurs’ and as the lead guitar belts out the final ringing notes, just two songs in you are wondering where you can get you your breath. Luckily ‘300 mph torrential outpour blues’ provides just that space, it’s a woozy laid back groove and no where near as fast as the title suggests and even with a mental guitar outburst about 2 minutes in cant take you back to the stomp of the first two tracks. ‘Conquest’ opens with mariachi trumpets and is the first of a slew of weird and wonderful tracks here; it could be used in a soundtrack like Desperado or one of Tarrantino’s uber-cool but wacky pieces of background sound. ‘Bone broke’ is a straight forward blues jam about being hard-up and perhaps the most tradition Stripes song on the album ‘Prickly thorn, but sweetly worn’ is a Celtic jig and gone is the fuzzed up electric replaced by mandolins and the first sound of  bagpipes, its different and a bit like a crap drinking song complete with yodelling which is perfect for when your pissed up. Why anyone would be possessed to use bagpipes in their music is beyond me and here it just really seems out of place, I’ve always admired the Stripes for trying different things and being experimental but this is one step to far and as the song bleeds into the next ‘St.Andrew’ its like when the Beatles let Ringo do a tune as Meg talks over franticly blown bagpipes, in the words of Alan Partridge ‘its just a noise’. Thankfully it’s all done in a just over a minute and we can get back to the task at hand. ‘Little cream soda’ arrives with a typical Jack riff, it’s a good song, but just when you thought they had got the silliness out of their systems along comes ‘Rag and bone’ I’m sure people will try and defend it saying its endearing and funny but in my opinion its terrible. Jack and Meg take the roles of rag and bone collectors and go looking for ‘old sinks and things’ as they banter backwards and forwards you wonder where the hell this album is going.  After all their experimentation this is nothing new sound wise and lyrically weak. Then just when the disappointment is setting in they come back from the brink with a tune like ‘I’m slowly turning into you’ a kind of love song all stop/starts, Hammond organ and a mean guitar line that makes you want to jump up and start shaking your ass. They then keep up the good run with ‘A martyr for my love for you’ in which Jack sound like early Beck mixed with Everlast on America’s Hammond. The structure is great and even the whistling in it shouldn’t put you off. Penultimate song ‘Catch hell blues’ is a porch song with excellent blues guitar from Jack it’s a reminder, after a few early crimes, how good the Stripes can be and how creative Jack can be when he’s on one. Last song ‘Cause and effect’ starts like Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ Jack strumming an acoustic and straining his vocal chords but its catchy enough and then that’s it the new album, just under an hour of madness and genius in equal measure. Where this record shines it really does but where it lacks I would maybe use the phrase ‘you can’t polish a turd’, the sooner they leave behind the bagpipes and the jokes and stick to what they do best the better, because this is half a good album, unfortunately its let down by its other half badly.

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