The White Stripes: Icky Thump


Pack into the Peppermint Starship powered by Jack and Meg, for it is Icky Thump time and your hosts are eager to tell you lyrically and sonically about new places and familiar haunts.  Don’t be alarmed if you see a ghost resembling Charley Patton float in and out during the trip, or holographic images of the future of this duo, both should be reassuring, strap in. 

Begin by getting sweaty with heavy, hot, and hazy vibes circa the Mexico/Texas border during the title track; swirl around in Guthrie’s electric-kool-aid-dustbowl-folk, which is being spooned out by Tom Joad to a guy in a Bob Dylan mask, and realize all of the heartache and attacks that occur while sleeping in empty beds during thunderstorms of sonic fury via “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told)” and “300 M.P.H Torrential Outpour Blues." Dry off and rocket to a rural island somewhere off the Iberian Peninsula for a trumpeting fiesta with spasmodic guitar and flamenco dancers twirling during the gloriously vibrant “Conquest”.

You may never look at dating the same.

A quick-dip into the Raw Power (Iggy Style) of “Bone Broke” stateside, before the main event: a Scottish Highland Gypsy festival with the motto “Prickly Thorn, Sweetly Worn” howled via bagpipe wails and St. Andrew’s reels.  No one wants the party to end, so linger, and let Meg serenade you before hyper-driving back, (Oh Well, Oh Well) to a dirty basement in the Motor City for a blues bath in a tub filled by broken “Little Cream Soda” bottles.  Knocked out and loaded, you get a little cockney-breather while Jack and Meg scrounge around East London for the next dust-covered gem they can polish into pure heaven.  When they procure the “Rag and Bone” they need…BANG! Smack dab in the middle of a video shoot, Gondry directing screeching six strings, Jack and Meg meld into one – in that moment you realize Jack is singing about you…or everyone…no time to contemplate as “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” blares to an end, transforming you into a Peeping Tom to an illicit love affair, fueled primarily by lust fear and crashing crescendos.  Broken, thrilled and overwhelmed, you awake in a ramshackle juke joint in either Tupelo or Cairo – not sure which – but the main act seems to be cataclysmically tearing down London Bridge with guitar strings, and “Catching Hell Blues” for their efforts, before the encore…which sounds like it’s being sung as an entwined duet between a hundred-year-old sharecropper and a suburban shopping mall, spouting lyrics penned by a drunk Sir Isaac Newton, backed by a guitar twang shuffle, simply called “Effect and Cause”. 

Phew, what a rush. And when it’s over where are you at?  You’re staring at the best, well-conceived project from one of the most important artists of the last ten years. You’re staring at a record that has enough spit and polish to be mainstream; enough off-kilter punk blues for diehards; enough sonic experimentation to cover up the groups’ normal shortcomings (Meg’s elementary drumming); lyrics that come from the wise and fun loving ventricle of Jacks heart (“And lots of other situations where I don’t know what to do/at which time God screams to me/“There’s nothing left for me to tell you”)…and you’re staring at the album of the year.

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