Icky Thump

On their jaw-smashing 2001 release White Blood Cells, White sits alone in his "Little Room" and cries his Motor City eyes out - 'when you're in your little room, and you're working on something good, but if it is really good, you're gonna need a bigger room, and when you're in you're in the bigger room, you might not know what to do, you might have to think of, how you got started sittin' in your little room.' Well, that was 2001, when we still enjoyed the novelty of matching red and white apparel, before White's nasal twang rang an annoying echo like a tiny kitten being spun to death in a blender.

Much has changed in those six long years. In 2003 Elephant was released, followed by 2005's Get Behind Me Satan. Once White's producing and arranging duties on Loretta Lynn's Grammy award winning album were over, and he grew tired of rehashing the same long winded stories with The Racounteurs, White felt that it was time to scream out a new White Stripes album, called Icky Thump.

Jack White got hitched to model Karen Elson and had a kid named Scarlett, with another on the way. The guitarist that Rolling Stone ranked #17 of all time left sooty Detroit for the, uh, more luxurious pastures of Nashville, appeared on The Simpsons, and even penned a controversial commercial for the carbonated sugar water dealers Coca Cola. The Sunday Times ranked White and Elson seventh on the list of celebs who were born or live in the UK, reporting the couples' joint worth at close to $40 million.

About one month ago while on tour in Spain, one of his red and white wearing gophers squealed into White's ear that Q101 in Chicago got a hold of the recently mixed Thump and leaked it on the air, well before the release date. White, who must have thought he was Superman, immediately left the Matador shop where he was purchasing dozens of flashy sequence pants and jackets, and called the DJ (Elektra) on the air, giving the jock more than his two cents worth. While listening to the new album, it's safe to say that White could have saved the Euros.

White Blood Cells was a milestone, surpassing the gritty 2000's De Stijl or the inaugural self-tltled firecracker from 1999. The last two joints barely sparked a fire inside, and neither did their live performance at the Aragon in Chicago 2004. Maybe I was over them, maybe they were forfeiting the battle they ingeniously began in order to pen radio friendly singles or beat Morrissey out for 'most NME covers' in a lifetime. The saturated coverage that this duo has been getting, as if they were a Hollywood blockbuster like Shrek or Pirates, ultimately watered down any excitement music aficionados might have had in anticipation for THE NEW WHITE STRIPES ALBUM.

At first listen, it's bloody obvious that Jackie boy has been to the supermarket, throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his cart of instruments. The greasy black haired cowboy has either become so famous and wealthy that he can no longer harness the poverty-stricken grit or frustrated potential of his beloved Detroit and successfully use that fuel to fire up a classic inferno such as White Blood Cells, or, he's simply lost his screeching marbles to this voyeuristic exploration as a legitimate musician desperately dredging along in an heroic attempt to pen the perfect song.

Icky Thump, as insignificant as hype can get, does come equipped with genuinely surprising fireworks, such as the opening title track. The kamikaze guitar work is like Brian May on a Fisher Price toy with White chirping like the bird Ozzy bit the head off of. White spouts out a rant about the immigration frustration of our nation while declaring to these United States that you 'can't be a pimp and a prostitute too.' The heaviness is thick like a buffet of assorted meats on Thanksgiving day, but White's jarring riffs simply repeat and recycle to the point of acrimony, leaving the producer no choice but to slowly fade the redundant noise away.

"300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" is a supple little thing, with the smooth slide guitar that made a famous criminal out of the innocent Ben Harper. The genial charm of this Tennessee square dance is abruptly interrupted by a crashing of Tourettes-like guitars that cut the Southern Comfort rug to sloshy shreds, interspersed with White's winded rant that ultimately peters off like the final barks of guard dog making his dangerous presence known, ending with 'One thing's for sure in that graveyard, I'm gonna have the shiniest pair of shoes.'

"Little Cream Soda" with a sarcastic smatter of 'oh well oh well' is one of the album's strongest hits, although not enough firepower for the duo to gain any championship belt. "Conquest" sounds like the kid who always wanted to hang out in your club, the odd booger eater who always reeked of week old salami, never worthy of being given your time of day. "Bone Broke" seems laughable when considering that cool $40 million in my man's exorbitant account, as does "Rag And Bone," which depicts Jack and Meg in a mansion, giddy at the opportunity to riffle through valuable goods while burdensomely deciphering which of the discarded trash, seen to them as priceless keepers, to take for themselves, ultimately leaving the stash untouched and walking away with nothing. Much like this review.

When Jack White decides to stop being Puff Daddy, and concentrate solely on The White Stripes, then maybe he'll be able to capture a similar incandescence found on White Blood Cells, or maybe not. Maybe that was then and this is now, and now is perfect time for White to write more corporate commercials, produce more country albums, play backup guitar in more one off bands, while sipping rare urine from the body of an American Eagle atop his gargantuan fortune, fondly remembering back to when he was just John Gillis sittin' in his little room.

The White Stripes
Warner Bros.

Icky Thump