So much has been written about the White Stripes -- ruminations on the power of ambiguously-related male/female duos, discussions of their Target-friendly red/white color scheme, rambling tripe about chicken restaurants, and so forth -- that it's almost impossible to approach Elephant
on the strength of its merits. Too many people have too much to say about it, and most of what they have to say has nothing to do with whether or not you'll actually like
Here's the crucial question: if someone gave you a taped or burned copy of Elephant, would it inspire you to run to the record store and drop $18.99 (list) on an art copy? Yeah, probably -- and I say that as someone who's been largely indifferent to Jack and Meg 'til now. While much of Elephant sounds, predictably, like four-track Led Zeppelin demos re-imagined on a seven figure budget, there are enough jaw-droppingly good 'n' bluesy rockouts ("Black Math", "Ball and Biscuit", "Hypnotize") to justify the purchase price. There's also the gloriously skewed "Well It's True That We Love One Another", in which Jack and Meg engage in faux-blues call-and-response silliness with the inimitable Holly Golightly. Too bad there aren't more songs here like it; much of Elephant plays like an extended piss-take where the audience's cue to laugh has been removed. There's plenty of nudging and winking but we aren't in on the jokes. Or perhaps we are: the thought of Jack White as a power-player in the world's taste-making stakes, for instance, is pretty funny when you think about it.
Elephant isn't one of those albums that'll change your life, or your tastes, or even the face of your music collection -- it's just a strong and consistent collection of powerful rock songs. That's reason enough to listen.