Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Tuesday, April 01, 2003  

Everybody's just loving the White Stripes. It's hard not to. They really are the best band I've heard in ages. The NME review of their new album, Elephant, gets carried away a bit, but it does well in exploring the slippery brilliance of Jack White, and his music:

"Here are devious confusions between romantic and maternal love, a neurotic approach to the wiles of women, numerology, infantilism and, not least, some of the most obliteratingly brilliant rock'n'roll of our time....

"Musically honest - as in untainted by those hussies, computers - it may be. But Jack's definitions are slippery.... Confusion remains his most effective security blanket. The brother and sister legend still diverts attention from when he really exposes himself, and it's now augmented by a recurring smudge between sexual and motherly love....

"Is this Jack White at his most truthful? As a man unnerved and bewildered by women, who yearns for the certainties of childhood? He'd certainly like us to think so... 'Elephant' is full of songs that sound like their subject is sex and read like it's actually inadequacy.

" 'Hypnotize' sees Jack trying desperately to control a woman, before he collapses into meek chivalry and pleads, "I want to hold your little hand if I can be so bold." On 'I Want To Be The Boy', all his attempts at courtly dating rituals end in failure. "It feels like everything I say is a lie," he mopes, pointedly.

"If only girls behaved the way he wanted them to. 'There's No Home For You Here' finds him so frustrated with yet another volatile woman that the trivia of their affair becomes despicable. At times, this stereotyping of women becomes faintly unsavoury. But it smells like fiction... perhaps all those apparent flaws of fickleness and duplicity lie in the minds of men, not women.

"Within his valve-driven little universe, Jack White is an extravagant drama queen... a fabulist and a showman. But he can also voice sweetness and torment with an intensity that most conventionally emotional songwriters would kill for. Critically, he can make you believe in his songs, at the same time as you don't believe a word of them. This, perhaps, is what great songwriters do.

"And always, there's the implication that he can do more. Right now, the eloquence, barbarism, tenderness and sweat-drenched vitality of 'Elephant' make it the most fully-realised White Stripes album yet."

When I get it, I'll let you know if I agree.

posted by Jonathan | 4:05 PM 0 comments


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