Elephant, the latest offering from the White Stripes, is one of the sweetest products to come out of Detroit since Ford Mustangs started rolling off the assembly lines in 1964. Actually recorded in London last April, Elephant incubated for a full year before being released by the Motor City’s dynamic rock duo, and in that year it aged like a fine wine. On their fourth album, Jack and Meg White fuse the sounds of their scrappy, but lovable hit LP White Blood Cells with their 2000 blues-charged release De Stijl. The results are electrifying.

Although it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Elephant really soups up the Stripes’ already distinct sound. Throughout the album, the White Stripes seize every opportunity to break the rigid rules they set for themselves on their previous LPs. One very welcome change in the Stripes’ sonic evolution is the addition of bass, especially the marching bass lines on the opening track, “Seven Nation Army”(note to guitar dorks: Jack isn’t playing a bass, he’s using an octave pedal). Another pleasant surprise is the album’s ferocious guitar assault, in contrast to the solo-free White Blood Cells. Shredding solos tear up the entire album, and the solo on “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” absolutely rips.

But the Stripes’ sterling achievement on Elephant is the album’s cool confidence and sense of fun. From Jack’s soaring vocals on the Dusty Springfield cover “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” to Meg’s vocal performance – reminiscent of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” – on “In the Cold, Cold Night,” to the playful country closer featuring Holly Golightly of Thee Headcoatees, Elephant showcases a band comfortable with being at the top of its game. Elephant won’t spark any rock revolutions; it simply establishes Jack White as one of rock’s most interesting songwriters and solidifies the White Stripes’ place as one of the most important bands making music today.

[Alex Scordelis has faith in medicine, especially Robitussin.]