The White Stripes (4 stars)

THE WHITE STRIPES

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Icky Thump (XL Recordings/Third Man)

ROCK

The White stripes are keen proof that there is a god. Or at least a benevolent force in the universe that occasionally, just occasionally allows a little bit of magic into this cruel, cruel world. Who else would have permitted this pair of vagabonds to have million selling albums and host of Hyde Park-sized enormo-gigs? This is their sixth album, and for the greater part it illustrates that, despite recent distractions, the magic is very much still there.

In the mainstream, the blues is something anodyne and smooth, the greased up, dumbed down retroisms of Eric Clapton and his acolytes. Jack White is a great punk blues player, the likes of which we so rarely get to hear. He may idolise Charly Patton, but he’s as much in awe of Jimmy Page. The Raconteurs may be fun, the jaunty matador outfits might looks spiffy and marrying super models from Oldham on a river boat on the Amazon may be pretty darn special too, but records are much more fun for everyone else.

‘There’s nothing left for me to tell you.’ Jack White wails on ‘Little Cream Soda’. That their stripped down format had run its course has been a suspicion many have had since ‘Seven Nation Army’ fixed a commercial zenith for the pair back in 2003. But it seems White and his big sis (sic) still have plenty of fire left in their bellies, for despite a couple of truly eccentric turns - a duology of Scottish laments for starters - this album is about big, raw blues riffs in songs with guile, charm and no end of humour.

They perfected their technique early with the faultless De Stijl and White Blood Cells, two long players which people will be playing in 50 years time as examples of just how good music was back around the turn of this century. Icky Thump isn’t quite in the same league as those but it still hits the spot for the most part with its wit, wisdom, lyrical sparkle and ferocity intact.

(Mark Robertson)

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