Three and a half stars
Following the commercial success of White Blood Cells, the White Stripes are sticking to the same tried-and-true formula of combining memorable lyric, super catchy guitar riffs and a lot of repetition while crafting its subsequent two albums. But Icky Thump, the band’s latest offering, is entirely different. This time around, the Stripes showcase more instruments, more complicated riffs, more solos and an overall bigger sound. Fans of the band’s previous albums need not worry, for the White Stripes have not abandoned usual blend of folk, country, blues and garage rock. Though there are a few exceptions, singer Jack White continues to sing impersonal folk tales along with Meg White’s signature elementary drumming. However, the melodies are richer and more textured this time around, making them much less simple and not as blatantly repetitive before.
“Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn,” with its bagpipes and mandolin, almost could have been performed in 19th century Scotland. “Little Cream Soda” is a fast-paced, energetic ode to hardcore heavy metal. In the ’50s-inspired “Baby Brother,” Jack White’s voice is deeper and filled with extra vibrato, making it sound like it belongs to an Elvis impersonator. Obviously, the Stripes are mixing things up this time around. The best song on the album is “Conquest,” a cover of a Corky Robbins cover of a song initially popularized by Patti Page. Jack White sings in an uncharacteristically passionate voice over a call and response between an electric guitar and a mariachi trumpet. His vocals are at their flashiest and loudest in this flamenco-inspired cover.
Icky Thump dabbles in various musical styles without completely discarding the previous albums’ grassroots tradition. This album, like the others, is a modernized ode to older musical styles. But Icky Thump embraces unexpected genres, and it features a more blatant display of talent and versatility than previous offerings from the band. On this album, the White Stripes prove the band has progressed from its modest Detroit beginning, both commercially and musically. Its sound is now big enough to blast through a sold-out stadium, for better or for worse.