Oh Meg and Jack, the pipes, the pipes are call­ing

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

IT was only a mat­ter of time be­fore bag­pipes made their way on to a White Stripes album. Not that it had to be bag­pipes ex­actly; it could have been nose flute or ka­zoo, but it was go­ing to be some­thing. While Jack and Meg White have cre­ated a suc­cess­ful art form with their raw, min­i­mal bluesy blus­ter over five al­bums, more than once on each of them there has been room for ex­tra colour, a lit­tle en­hance­ment. So on Icky Thump the dy­namic duo add some ‘‘ NWEEEEAW!’’ to their more tra­di­tional ‘‘ POW!’’ and ‘‘ THWACK!’’ with the bag­pipe adornment of Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn and St Andrew ( This Bat­tle is in the Air). Both tracks have a Celtic feel — an­other nov­elty — with Meg mak­ing a rare trip to the mi­cro­phone on the lat­ter. Her voice is also present on Rag and Bone, a rap boo­gie with tongue in cheek that serves as a metaphor for the group’s scav­eng­ing of styles here (‘‘ bring out your junk and we’ll give it a home / a bro­ken trum­pet or a tele­phone’’). Those styles, aside from Scot­tish folk and un­adorned may­hem, in­clude a Mex­i­can mariachi in­flu­ence on Con­quest, a song that was a mi­nor hit for Amer­i­can singer Patti Page. It’s easy to see its arch melo­drama be­com­ing a live cen­tre­piece on fu­ture trav­els. Else­where, Jack White’s wail sails men­ac­ingly over a Led Zep- Hen­drix wig- out on Bone Broke, while the clos­ing Ef­fect and Cause is a stri­dent and ef­fec­tive acous­tic coun­try blues. The album was recorded in Nashville’s Black­bird Stu­dios, a step up from the Stripes’ more spar­tan stu­dio ar­range­ments in the past, but lit­tle spon­tane­ity or raw en­ergy is sac­ri­ficed to the grander sur­round­ings. You Don’t Know What Love Is ( You Just Do as You’re Told) and I’mSlowly Turn­ing into You are the most glow­ing ex­am­ples of their Route 1 rock approach. Over­all, though, there’s more di­ver­sity and a sense of fun on Icky Thump, both wel­come ad­di­tions to their for­mi­da­ble dual as­sault.

Iain Shed­den

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