Looking for an accomplice – Consolers of the Lonely (2008)


Consolers of the Lonely, the thunderous second album by The Raconteurs, was altogether unexpected. It was announced with almost zero fanfare in March of 2008, and released just days later. The Raconteurs pounded it out in roughly a week, and it was in the hands of listeners just three weeks after that. It’s also surprising how much more fleshed-out it is than Broken Boy Soldiers, which had an understated quality, solid but unspectacular. This follow-up is much more complex and ambitious in its way, with a lot more to say and lot more time in which to say it. But most surprising of all is that Consolers of the Lonely might just be the best album Jack White has ever been involved in, a crowd-pleasing rocker with big hooks, beefy riffs, and all sorts of loving tributes to the classic rock of the 1970s. It’s an altogether fun album from beginning to end. Continue reading

I won’t need a microphone – Icky Thump (2007)


Icky Thump, the final studio album by the White Stripes, gives us a glimpse of the band’s trajectory if they hadn’t broken up four years later.  It’s the band’s most complex album, with the most advanced songwriting and the biggest moments. While it is clearly in the same vein as the early bashed-out blues songs as their debut, here it all feels much more thought-out and intentional. Icky Thump was the result of several albums of growth and maturity, including three straight barn-burning albums that pushed the two-piece band to places people never thought possible. That also goes for the band themselves, who were now rock giants in a landscape where such things were becoming rare. In that context, Icky Thump feels like a logical progression, and it’s fascinating to hear it forge new territory all while feeling like a definite product of The White Stripes. Continue reading

You’ve had too much to think – Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)


Like all rock stars, it was only a matter of time before Jack White started in with the side projects. Ten years ago there was no indication precisely how many side projects he would indulge, making the debut of the Raconteurs in 2006 a minor event in the world of rock music. The Ranconteurs were much more than a Jack White vanity project though. For someone with such a reputation as a musical Willy Wonka, Jack White is generally quite collaborative when he’s in a band. For this new venture he teamed up with Brendan Benson, another singer-songwriter from the Detroit area, and with Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, two musicians from the Cincinnati band The Greenhornes. Back in 2006 it was pitched as something of a “supergroup,” though Jack White was far and away the most well-known one, making it a somewhat spurious usage of the “supergroup” label. But for all of the minor hoopla surrounding the release of their debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, in 2006, the first album from The Raconteurs is a somewhat unassuming one. Continue reading

You got a reaction, didn’t you? – Get Behind Me Satan (2005)


After rising to genuine rock star status after Elephant, the White Stripes used their follow-up as an opportunity to take a hard left turn. Get Behind Me Satan is a weird album that opens with several songs that don’t sound anything like earlier White Stripes albums. Over a decade removed from its original release, it still stands as the strangest album the band would ever record.  Continue reading

Find me a soapbox where I can shout it – Elephant (2003)


If The White Stripes are remembered for one song, that song will almost certainly be “Seven Nation Army.” The opening track to their fourth album Elephant is one of the great guitar hooks in rock history, ranking beside “Satisfaction,” “Smoke On The Water,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” It’s also one of those rare rock songs that has become a stadium anthem around the world. Apart from its impact, it is easily one of the best songs The White Stripes recorded, a tightly coiled ball of menace with the heartbeat of Meg’s drumming pushing it forward relentlessly. And for the first time on a White Stripes album, we get a blistering guitar solo from Jack. But the biggest miracle is that, as terrific as “Seven Nation Army” is, it probably isn’t even the best song on Elephant. The fourth album by The White Stripes is a rock miracle, a back-to-front masterpiece that has at least five classic Stripes tracks, and a pack of album tracks that all feel part of the whole. Continue reading

Shiny Tops and Soda Pops – White Blood Cells (2001)


The heavy blues influence on the first two White Stripes albums is well-executed and thrilling, but it does give those albums a sense that they are riffs on a common idea. Jack White is far from the first white boy to discover the blues, and lo-fi aesthetic notwithstanding, the broad sound of those early albums comes off a bit like grimy Zeppelin. It’s really well done, but it’s not quite a unique voice yet. Continue reading

Back In School Again – De Stijl (2000)


Listening to De Stijl after the White Stripes’ debut is like watching a pitcher with a great arm suddenly figure out how to be way more accurate. Everything about De Stijl is far more precise and focused. Rather than a powerful roar of distortion, Jack White’s guitar work is much more detailed and nuanced. This is a giant leap forward for The White Stripes, and a strong blueprint for their future albums. Continue reading