What lemmings us music reviewers are.
The White Stripes pull a music industry Horatio Alger in 2002 — while maintaining their “integrity”, mind you — and it seems only right to shower unanimous praise on the duo, just to save ourselves from paying any mind to, say, Evanesence.
Of course, I’m not an editor over at Rolling Stone, so I can’t reward the coveted five-star prize to Shiina Ringo’s Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana.
Still, does Jack’s and Meg’s fourth long player even deserve as much jubilant ink that’s been spilled since the album’s release? The key phrase of note is “as much”.
Elephant does deserve some praise, but don’t think it’s an instant classic yet.
(No — that would be Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana.)
One thing I can agree with every other music writer out there — the album is monstrous.
Forget the surprising bass line on “Seven Nation Army”. Elephant begins proper with the raging “Black Math”, a track Thee Michelle Gun Elephant has been failing to write for a good decade now.
Once you get past the fact “There’s No Home For You” uses the exact same chords as “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground”, the overdubbed chorus of Jacks that burst in from time to time sounds really nice.
Elephant finally sells itself with a deconstructive cover of Burt Bacharach’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”. Jack really gets in and around those lyrics on this one.
Then, Meg seals the deal with “Cold, Cold Night”. Kind of like how D’Arcy was thrown a bone when Smashing Pumpkins recorded Gish.
After that, the album goes hit and miss.
Hits: “I Want to Be the Boy” for being emotive, “The Hardest Button to Button” for bringing back the bass, “It’s True That We Love One Another” for bringing the album back to earth.
Misses: “Hypnotise” for being “Fell in Love with a Girl”, “Ball and Biscuit” for being seven minutes, “Little Acorns” for that introductory homily.
(Aside: I found it tough to listen to “Little Acorns” without thinking of Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band’s “Squirrels”, a song positing whether squirrels fucking in a tree feel ecstacy like humans.)
Despite all the sonic acoutrements, Elephant is pretty much the same blues-rock the White Stripes were hammering out before they became neo-garage rock poster children. At the same time, there’s a sense of abandon on this album that indicates Jack and Meg are riding their 15 minutes as hard and fast as they can while it lasts.
That’s what makes Elephant good. It doesn’t make it timeless.