With each subsequent White Stripes release, Jack White's psyche tugs at itself, over-correcting previous tendencies, teetering between manic and measured. Part obsessive, part Luddite, who else would take that fetish item, the color-vinyl 7-inch, and concoct a red-white color scheme (and mythology) that has endured for six albums? Prone to rocking kilts during his gig as a Raconteur, Jack now embraces his Scottish heritage with a shout to St. Andrew and the bleat of bagpipes on Icky Thump
(itself a twist on northern English slang). And while the first sound heard is the flatulence of an ancient synthesizer, Guitar World
readers fret not, Jack's guitar pyrotechnics and squalls are thrust forward on Icky Thump
after taking a backseat on Get Behind Me Satan
. A Hammond organ may buoy album highlights "I'm Slowly Turning Into You" and "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)," but it's Jack's six-string crunch that sends it soaring.
Such overdriven tendencies swing the pendulum back from the sparseness of Satan's piano and marimba, but ultimately overwhelm every selection here. The punchlines on "Bone Broke" get swallowed whole by the bombast, and Jack's sweethearted quiescence is sorely missed throughout. What's not smothered by guitar instead gets buried in trumpet trills and bagpipes. Closer "Effect and Cause" sums up the White Stripes' cart-before-horse mentality best: As the greatest rock band of our age moves deeper into the 21st century, the White Stripes stubbornly insist on also going back-assward.