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