The WHITE STRIPES – ” Icky Thump ” Classic Rock Albums

Posted: June 16, 2022 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Jack White’s label Third Man Records has already put the final album by the White Stripes back in circulation through their subscription-only Vault Series, packaging the 2007 release with a double-LP set of demos and tracks from the same sessions. This new edition is just the original LP, as it was originally released on vinyl, right down to the sticker placed in such a spot that it needs to be cut through to access the actual records. It’s a cute little trick but will surely leave collectors drooling over whether they can safely peel it off without it tearing or whether cutting into the album’s resale value will be worth it. Whatever your feelings on the matter are, it’s great to have the ultimate statement by Jack and Meg White brought back to the format that serves their high-wattage garage blues antics best.

The White Stripes seemed to have wandered far afield of the nervy electric blues of their breakthrough album “Elephant” with 2005’s gloomy “Get Behind Me Satan“. Then came “Icky Thump”, their last blast of garage-band glory.

This return-to-form LP arrived on June 15th, 2007, It couldn’t have had less in common with “Get Behind Me Satan”, which sold about half as much as 2003’s “Elephant” – a platinum smash that featured “Seven Nation Army.” The experience seemed to have stung singer/guitarist Jack White, who developed a newfound appreciation for remaining true to one’s roots.

“I told someone that one of these new songs could be an old 45 of ours,” White admitted in a 2007 talk with the New York Times. “And they said, would you want the Beatles to have ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ on the White Album? And I said, yeah, I would love that — what would be wrong with that?”

With “Icky Thump”, White’s stinging guitar moved forward where pianos and light orchestral arrangements once were. Tough, blues-inflected songs replaced the quiet balladry that dominated Get Behind Me Satan.

Credit must also go to a year spent on the road with White’s other band, the Raconteurs. The time away seemed to have sharpened his riffs to a razor’s edge – even as it loosened him up. “Rag and Bone,” a talking-blues in the style of John Lee Hooker, boldly recalled the White Stripes‘ fizzy initial successes, while “Little Cream Soda” grew out of an on-stage improvisation.

“You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)” howled with an open-hearted, country-soul rawness, while two tracks (“Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn” and “St. Andrew”) featured a bagpipe. The White Stripes converted a video treatment by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry into a finished song (“I’m Slowly Turning Into You”), and even included a mariachi-driven cover of Patti Page’s “Conquest.”

“When it comes to the songs themselves, the songs are in charge – not me,” White told Reuters in 2007. “Take a song like ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told).’ That was pretty much a country song in my mind. If I really was in control I could have just said, ‘Hey, how dare you allow electric guitar and heavy organ on there,’ but I don’t do that. I let the song tell me what it wants.”

Recorded over three weeks with drummer Meg White in Nashville, “Icky Thump” also arrived as they made a seemingly uncomfortable shift to a major label. Hints came in the selection of “Conquest,” but also the subtext of this album’s gnarled title track – their first-ever Top 40 single. Both seemed to point to lingering trust issues for the White Stripes, those heroes of garage-rock outsider-dom. “Icky Thump” is “about people using other people,” White said in 2007. “The theme is ‘Who’s using who?'”

As with many bands who came before them, it seemed the White Stripes‘ long-awaited success simply created more pressure. “Icky Thump” scored a career-best but, like “Get Behind Me Satan“, that didn’t match the million-LP sales of “Elephant” or 2001’s “White Blood Cells“. An accompanying tour was cut short, with White citing Meg’s growing anxiety about performing, and the White Stripes went into an extended hiatus.

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