Tag Archives: Jack White

Song of the Day: “Fell In Love With a Girl” – The White Stripes

An explosive song that clocks in at just under two minutes, “Fell In Love With a Girl” just might be the coolest song to be released this century. Everything about the song – its violent riff, Meg White’s anarchic drumming, Jack White’s insane “ahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhh-ah!” screams – blasts out of the speakers and pummels everything in its path.

“Fell In Love With a Girl” just might be the best thing Jack White ever recorded in illustrious career. Inside those chaotic two minutes is a culmination of rock itself: blues chord progressions played at Zeppelin-esque volume; the DIY ethos of garage-rock and punk; the unbridled energy of The Who and the fierce attack of The Stooges; the power-pop sensibility of The Beatles.

A lot was made of the garage-rock revival at the beginning of the century. Some bands were really good (see The Strokes’ Is This It), others I thought were decent at the time but eventually realized were terrible (see The Vines) and some were fashion statements with instruments (The Hives). And  then there were the ones whose music you heard before back when they were called Joy Division. (Interpol, I’m looking at you.)

But The White Stripes established themselves above the rest with one single swoop. Whereas other bands felt like they were trying too had, “Fell In Love With a Girl” seemed spontaneous and off the cuff. (For the record, I do think Jack White does try too hard sometimes. Remember Get Behind Me Satan?)

The rest of White Blood Cells didn’t reach the height of “Fell In Love With a Girl”. The rest of the songs found on the album were very strong, but “Fell In Love with a Girl” was and too intense and too badass to be pushed by the wayside. The only way for White to eclipse or circumvent the song’s power was to create something more repetitive and simple sounding and double-down on it. “Seven Nation Army” might be on its way to becoming the most famous guitar riff of all time, if thousands of sports fans have their way.

But I’ll never get tired of hearing “Fell In Love With a Girl” in all its glory. To quote Bob Dylan, “Play fuckin’ loud.”

 

My Life in 33 Songs: #18: “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes (Or Going to a Ravens Game on Thanksgiving Night With My Father)

 

img_05

On Thanksgiving night in 2013, a little bit before dinner my brother made my wife and I offer that  was too good to refuse: his tickets to that night’s Ravens game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has season tickets but because of the holiday did not want to go. Naturally, I immediately jumped at the chance. My wife, despite loving football was a little more hesitant because it was supposed to be a really chilly night. But knowing how much I wanted to go, she still would have gone with me. After a little while, she suggested that I go with my father instead.

As soon as I told him, my father starting rummaging around my brother’s house looking for warmer clothes. I could immediately tell that it made him happy to go with me. There was an unspoken acknowledge between us: years earlier the thought of the two of us attending a football game together seemed ridiculous.

It’s not like I didn’t like spending time with my father. On the contrary. Yet football was an entirely different matter. As a kid, I hated football and couldn’t understand why he would spend Sunday afternoons watching it. The games seemed to go on forever without anything actually happening. I couldn’t relate to his anger and frustration at seeing the his favorite team, Washington Redskins lose time after time. Why would anyone want to put themselves through that?

It wasn’t until six or seven years ago that I finally came around to football due in large part to spending Saturday afternoons drinking and watching Notre Dame games with two of my closest friends. At first I just used the games as an excuse to drink on Saturday afternoons, but eventually I found myself not only enjoying the games but becoming a fan of the Irish as well. It also helped that my wife is a big supporter of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and we have since attended several games together.  Living in Baltimore has given me little choice but to be a Ravens fan.

As we made our way to the stadium through the large crowd, it felt good to be with my dad. There seemed to be an openness to our conversations that is not always there. I could tell he felt similarly. His mood was so jovial that he even joked around with the people around us.

Mid-way through the game, the familiar boom of “Seven Nation Army” blasted through the  stadium loudspeakers. Almost immediately, the crowd began to chant the song’s famous guitar riff. “What is this song?” My dad asked, not being too familiar with popular music. “I hear it all the time in English Soccer games.”  I explained to him that it was a song by the White Stripes and wasn’t originally intended to be a sports anthem. For someone who didn’t particularly like rock music or why I love it so much, he seemed genuinely interested and even got caught up in the crowd’s chant.

When “Seven Nation Army” debuted in 2003 on The White Stripes’ Elephant album, I could not have predicted that it would become such a world-wide phenomenon at sporting events, let alone that my father would know the melody and chant it.  And I’m not even sure Jack White could have predicted its popularity.

Though it might seem normal now (and maybe even cliche) now, in all honesty, “Seven Nation Army” is a fucking weird song to be a hit outside of the rock world. It’s fueled in part by paranoia and a massive yet repetitive guitar riff that never wavers but only changes in octaves. The guitar solo contains the same chords as the main riff. And to top it all off, there’s no chorus. Like The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, the main riff is one that you can’t get out of your head no matter how much you try. The riff (sometimes mistaken as a bass guitar due its deep, thick sound) is the melody that drives the song. If the song is stuck in your head, you hum the riff, not Jack White’s vocals.

Though he can sometimes come off as cantankerous, Jack White seems humbled and bemused by the whole thing. As he related to Conan O’Brien last summer, “People come up to me all the time, and they think it makes me mad for some reason. I don’t know why they think it upsets me. As a songwriter, that’s the greatest thing that could ever happen. It becomes folk music.”

It’s hasn’t quite become reached that level, but it’s not far off. Watch any football game and you’ll hear marching bands play the song in the background. Many teams use the song to entice crowds who chant the song with glee. It’s on its way to becoming the “We Will Rock You” of the 2000s.

For fans of the Ravens, the song has a particular resonance. As the “pump up” song for thee crowd, it’s played at virtually every home game the Ravens play and it ignites the crowd in a way that nothing else does. Even some of the players have taken note of its power. Following the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory in 2013, former safety Ed Reed led the faithful through a chant of the song at a victory parade in MT&T Bank Stadium.

Interestingly, “Enter Sandman”, Joe Satriani’s “Crowd” and Shinedown’s “Diamond Eyes” along with “Seven Nation Army” were all original contenders for the “pump song”.  A few years ago, the Raven’s web-site called for song submissions and hundreds of requests were received. Coach John Harbaugh was then given the task of breaking the submissions the down to five. It wasn’t a landslide, but “Seven Nation Army” was clearly the winner. Ever since then, the song has become a regular part of Ravens home games.

I wish I could have explained all that to my dad. As it was, spending Thanksgiving night in the cold watching a Ravens victory over the Steelers was more than enough. As we left the stadium, I remember thinking that I wanted to make a tradition of going to a game with him every year. Just last month, we did exactly that. I hope we can go sometime next year too. Maybe I’ll make a Ravens fan out of him yet.

 

 

Song of the Week: “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

 

In terms of actual songwriting, “Seven Nation Army” is a very strange song.  There’s no chorus. It’s famous “bass-line” is actually a guitar.  And the whole song is just a variation one on single riff.

But it’s a riff that gets stuck in your head, and is very easy to hum or mimic, which might explain why it’s such a popular song to be played at sporting events.  The song has been used for chants for many years in European Soccer games.  In recent years, Baltimore Ravens fans have picked it up as their “unofficial anthem”.  I went to one game a few years ago and was amazed at people’s reaction to it.  The whole stadium erupted into a song/chant of “Ooooo, oooo,oooooo,ooooo-ooooooooooh!” as the song blared in the background.  A girl behind me shouted, “Finally!” like a major play had just happened.

It’s hard to believe that “Seven Nation Army” and Elephant will turn 10 in just a few months.  Upon its release, I became obsessed with the record and that song in particular. Compared to what was out at the time, The White Stripe were exciting and bizarre. And of course, they flat-out rocked. Elephant was one of the few CDs I bought with me on a study abroad program to Italy that year.  On the weekends, as a group we took trips to Rome, Florence and Venice. As everyone else on the bus passed out and nursed their hang-overs, I stared out at the window looking at the country-side with “Seven Nation Army” blasting through my head-phones.

On that trip I met one of my closest friends.  Throughout this past football season, she would send me text updates on the Ravens when I wasn’t able to watch the games.  Most of the time the texts were filled with updates on the score or major plays.  Occasionally, they were angry.  When Joe Flacco’s pass was intercepted by the Denver Broncos in December resulting in a touch-down, I got one that simply read, “We fucking suck.”

Of course the Ravens don’t suck.  And neither does Joe Flacco.  But to anyone who has followed the team throughout the season, you know it’s been an up-hill battle: Ray Lewis’ tricep injury, the death of Torrey Smiths’ brother early in the season, the death of founder Art Modell, critics who wrote Flacco off, the firing of Cam Cameron in December.

For much of the season, I became preoccupied with Notre Dame’s winning streak.  (They are my favorite team after-all.)  The further Notre Dame went and won in October and November, the more the Ravens seemed to slide. But then something happened: the Ray Lewis effect. When the famed line-backer announced his retirement in the beginning of January, the Ravens seemed invigorated and whole again.

As the dreams of a Notre Dame Championship win blew away and faded into the background, and the Ravens charged their way through the play-offs I grew more nervous.  If there was ever a season where the team needed a Super Bowl win, this was it. After the win agains the Broncos and Ray Lewis babbled his way through an obscure Bible verse (“no weapon forged against us”), I immediately thought of the opening lines of “Seven Nation Army”:

I’m gonna fight’em off.                                                                                                                       A Seven Nation Army couldn’t hold me back.

Truer words couldn’t be spoken about the team. Thanks guys for the memories and season, and thanks Jack for letting us adopt your song as our own.

 

 

2012’s Top 10 Albums of the Year

(In no particular order.)

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Just when you thought R&B was done, Frank Ocean comes along and blows the whole damn thing up.  Make no mistake though, this isn’t a straight-up R&B album.  Instead of focusing on smooth melodies and songs about trying to get laid, Ocean pulls you in with his atmospheric arrangements, spoken/sung vocals and surrealistic lyrics not normally found in R&B.  When was the last time that an R&B star released an album with a 10-minute song with lyrics about Cleopatra?  Channel Orange is to R&B what The College Drop-Out was to rap 8 years ago: a complete game-changer.

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss is Jack White’s best musical outing since The White Stripes’ Elephant.  Blunderbuss is full of all the things that make Jack White one of the best musicians of his generation: crunching blues with spit-fire solos (“Sixteen Saltines”, “Freedom at 21”) odd folk detours (“Love Interruption”, “Blunderbuss”) and awesome covers (“I’m Shaking”).  Perhaps freed from (the self-imposed) binds of The White Stripes, White gives a tight and focused record that reveals much with each listening.  Blunderbuss is proof that in the right hand, the blues still are vital in the 21st Century.

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Wrecking Ball is Springsteen’s best album since The Rising.  But more than that, it’s the first album since Darkness on the Edge of Town where Springsteen acted like everything around him was at stake. That attitude gives Wrecking Ball a fire that flows through every song. Musically, it’s also his most adventurous – hip-hop, gospel and Irish tin whistles all collide (sometimes in the same song).  “Send the robber baron’s straight to hell,” Springsteen commands because “the greedy thieves that came around, ate the flesh of everything they’ve found.”

Bob Dylan – Tempest

Tempest is a full album of the twisted tales found in Dylan classics like “Romance in Durango” and “Idiot Wind”.  Like Springsteen, Dylan offers a dark album for a dark time.  Where Springsteen honed his anger at the “greedy thieves” and capitalism, Dylan’s album is filled with murder and blood abound. There’s a triple murder-suicide, a fictionalized version of the Titanic’s sinking where passengers violently attack each other for life-boats and Dylan’s declaration where he’ll pay in blood but not his own.

Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe

Master of My Make-Believe continues the genre-busting experiments of Santogold and takes them even further. Left-field ideas are the core of this album. There’s weird buzzing  guitars (courtesy of Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah  Yeah’s) over dark atmospheric beats.  Though there are a lot of producers on the album (including Diplo and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek) it sounds complete.  Much of Master of My Make-Believe recalls the sonic sound 80’s pop, but it sounds totally fresh and exciting.

Passion Pit – Gossamer

Unlike a lot of electronic-rock albums, Passion Pit’s Gossamer bursts with ideas and urgency. Underneath all the synths it also seems extremely human.  The off-kilter beats and samples seem to mimic lead singer Michael Angelako’s Bi-polar Disorder. The trippy sounds and upbeat nature of the music make Angelako’s angst and frustration all the more apparent evident on “Carried Away” and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy.”  Gossamer might be a vehicle for Angelako to keep his demons in check, but for the rest of us it’s a glorious treat.

Gary Clark Jr. – Blak & Blu

In the past couple years, Gary Clark has been touted as the 21st Century’s version of Jimi Hendrix.  Jack White aside, it’s been awhile since a guitar hero has caused this much commotion and accolades. While Blak & Blu doesn’t quite live up to Clark’s live shows or conjure up the ghost of Are You Experienced? it’s a fascinating listen.  By incorporating neo-soul and hip-hop beats into his mix, Clark has found a way to update blues rock without feeling redundant.

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Prior to Handwritten’s release, The Gaslight Anthem put out a cover of Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust”.  It shouldn’t come as a shock that the Gaslight Anthem would cover Pearl Jam, as both bands wear their hearts on their sleeves without a trace of irony.  But that’s always been a part of The Gaslight Anthem’s appeal.  While their influences are still part of their sound, Handwritten finds The Gaslight Anthem finding their own sound in a bid for America’s “most important band”.

Alicia Keys – Girl on Fire

“I’ve changed! I’m grown-up! This is a breakthrough!” That’s more or less what Alicia Keys has been shouting from the roof-tops in album promos and interviews for Girl on Fire. Still, it’s always nice to hear a mainstream woman artist who isn’t afraid to put her personal struggles at the forefront. But the real seller for the album is how Keys manages to convey her own personal revelations through her music as well whether its the retro-soul of “Tears Always Win” or the fuzzy and killer beats found on “When It’s Over”.

Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

Leonard Cohen has been on a roll in recent years. His recent tours have seen him invigorated and that attitude permeates throughout Old Ideas.  Cohen’s usual themes of love, redemption and Biblical allusions are all present, but there’s also some good-natured (and self-depricating) humor thrown in for good measure. The songs themselves open up slowly – the female backing vocals are wonderful especially on “Amen” and “Lullaby”- pulling the listener further into Cohen’s soul and mind.  Cohen may think these are Old Ideas, but his music sounds as vital as ever.

 

Song of the Week: “Steady As She Goes” – The Raconteurs

As good as he is at mind-blowing blow-torch style solos, Jack White also comes a close second to Keith Richards in his ability to churn out classic riffs with ease.  While “Seven Nation Army” might be his most memorable riff, his thick and muscular playing on “Steady As She Goes” is also one of the best of the past decade.  The loud crunch of his guitar cuts through the speakers and crackles like a wild-fire.  Though the Raconteurs are/were an actual band, it’s clear that White owns the show here – though the bass line is pretty killer as well.

At the time of its release in 2006, my White Stripes fandom was at its height.  That summer, I remember asking a girl who told me she was a psychic (clearly calling her bluff) if Jack White would have a long career.  She wasn’t quite sure who that was, and thought I meant Jack Black.  But six years later, White is still going strong and for me, “Steady As She Goes” remains one of the high points of his wild and illustrious career.

 

Review: The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams

Like the Wilco/Billy Bragg collaboration Mermaid Avenue, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams takes unfinished lyrics of a great songwriter and puts it to new music. Unlike Mermaid Avenue (which took lyrics from Woody Guthrie), The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams doesn’t try to update William’s music for a contemporary audience. Instead, most of the artists here (including the likes of Alan Jackson, Sheryl Crowe, Norah Jones, and Bob and Jakob Dylan) stay true to the country twang that Williams was known for.

Bob Dylan gets most of the credit here for getting the project together. He was handed the original lyrics in 2008 by Sony/ATV after a janitor found them in a dumpster. The original concept was for Dylan to complete the music for an album, but ultimately the project became a collaboration between various artists, with Dylan as one of the producer – under his pseudonym Jack Frost.

Alan Jackson’s “You’ve Been Lonesome, Too” is a little too reverent to William’s sound. Driven by a wistful violin, you almost expect the ghost of Williams himself to join in for the chorus. Dylan’s “The Love that Has Faded” sounds like an out-take from 2006’s Modern Times.  His aged and smokey voice perfectly suits the song especially when he sings: “My way is lonely, without you I’m lost.”

Norah Jones gives a haunting performance for “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?”  Hearing Levon Helm take on “You’ll Never Again Be Mine” makes you wish The Band had recorded some of these songs. Sheryl Crowe’s performance on “Angel Mine” almost makes you wish that she would pursue a career in low-key Alt-Country.

Jack White is the only artist who steps out and attempts to create a different kind of sound for Williams’ lyrics with a bluesy take on “You Know That I Know”.  His electric guitar isn’t full volume like his work with The White Stipes, but it’s still a welcome sound and unmistakable. It’s also worth noting that White’s song is perhaps the “funnest” song on the album even if the lyrics are a little dour.

Ultimately, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams probably won’t convert any new followers. But perhaps that’s not the point. All of these artists are paying tribute to one of country music’s creates musicians, and there’s little doubt that Hank himself would be proud of the result.

The Ten Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 1. The White Stripes

In 1973 the critically hated band Grand Funk Railroad claimed themselves to be “An American Band”.  But few bands are as strictly American as The White Stripes.  The ghosts of Son House, Robert Johnson, and Blind Willie McTell  live in Jack White’s basement.  Using old blues records and folk songs as a template, The White Stripes created some of the most authentic and engaging music to come out in decades.  Add to that they came from Detroit, perhaps popular music’s most important city.  It’s a city known for its blues artists in the 50s and 60s, and helped popularize Black Music with Motown in the 1960s, and conceived punk-rock with The Stooges and The MC5.  The White Stripes have almost exclusively ignored musical trends since the end of the 1960s, an era when Detroit seemed to fall out of favor with the music public.

Even as they’ve dug up the past, The White Stripes live in a world that very few artists have.  It’s a world that isn’t defined by time.  While Elephant and White Blood Cells they could easily  exist in the 50s just as they do in our age.  Just like The Basement Tapes, The White Stripes looked to Americana for inspiration, but in the process created their own version.

Crucial to their own version of Americana, is The White Stripes’ own myth-making.  It may seem silly in the age of information for Jack and Meg to insist on being siblings when in fact they were really married at one point.  But like their heroes, they created personas of themselves directly linking themselves to the past, even going so far as to change their names.  Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play guitar. In In the early stages of his career Bob Dylan (another of White’s heroes) created the illusion that he was actually a ho-bo to make himself seem more authentic in the burgeoning folk-scene.  In “Ball and Biscuit”, White refers himself to “the 7th son” – a folklore concept in which the 7th son is given special powers due to his birth order.  It’s no coincidence that White makes this declaration in a seven minute showcase for his fiery guitar freak-outs.  By making such claims, The White Stripes are securing their place in American culture, right alongside other legendary artists.

But it’s really the music where The Stripes establish their credibility.  It’s a primitive and primal crunch, that has to be made two people.  Adding another instrument of person would take away from the rawness that harkens back to the blues records.  There’s a reason why they only recorded with vintage guitars and equipment.  It’s not just because they prefer that particular sound.  Anything else, would make them just another blues band, instead of blues purists.

That sound, while if not wholly original, must have been a shock to casual radio fans who weren’t familiar with the likes of Son House and others.  In era where everything on rock radio seemed homogenized, “Fell in Love With a Girl” was a blast of fresh air.  Not since “Blitzkrieg Bop” have two minutes sounded so exciting and fresh.  “Fell In Love With a Girl” helped established The White Stripes as a new voice in rock and roll to the mainstream (even though they had been receiving critical attention for a while), but it was really “Seven Nation Army” and Elephant that saw them conquer the world.

With that famous “bass riff”, Seven Nation Army”, has got to be one of the weirdest songs to grace radio in years.  The whole song is built around a variation of the same chord, and there’s no chorus. While some detractors have claimed that Meg White as a terrible drummer, no other drummer would have sounded right for this song.  White has claimed the title came from a childhood mispronunciation of “salvation army”, but the magic number 7 pops up again.

The White Stripes’ popularity suddenly make it possible for younger bands to realize that they didn’t have to be pigeon-holed by a particular sound.  Over the last decade, there has been a surplus in bands that just contains two members, or omit a bass player – The Black Keys and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, being the most prominent.  Numerous unsigned and local bands have also taking the cue as well.  But trying to be authentic, The White Stripes have helped create a rock revolution not seen since the punk-era or grunge.

As significant as their influence on younger bands is, The White Stripes remain legendary because they’ve established themselves as part of American culture in a way that few artists have.  The White Stripes could never keep going, because Jack White is always on the move – always between two places, never staying in the same place once.  Since their break-up they’ve truly managed to become what they’ve always wanted – artists that existed for a time, but never part of a particular time.

The White Stripes Are No More – Revisiting “Elephant”

Today, The White Stripes announced that they are breaking up.  While I admit that I’ve gotten tired of them (I thought both Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump were lukewarm at best and the live show I saw remains one of the worst I’ve seen for various reasons – check back later in the week for an explanation and my list of worst concerts) Elephant, was and remains a brilliant record.

I didn’t know much about The White Stripes prior to Elephant, but the pre-release buzz surrounding the album seemed to suggest it would be special.  Most critics concluded that the album might as well come packaged with a sticker on the sleeve with the words: “instant classic”.

I was a junior in college when Elephant came out.  At the time, my campus seemed divided on those that opposed the war, and those in favor.  Elephant not only provided an escape, but it demanded it.  The guitar-blast after the second verse of  “Seven Nation Army” was like a flood-gate. It was old-school blues, but contemporary.  Past and present seemed to collide as the song faked a bass-line, that was actually a guitar. That wall of noise provided said more than any protest song could at the time, no matter what Conor Oberst thought.  On “Black Math”, Jack White may have sung like Robert Plant, but the blistering guitar solo was more akin to the Velvet Underground’s noisy jams on such songs as “What Goes On”.

That summer when I went to Italy, I probably burnt a hole in my copy of Elephant from listening to it non-stop as we took weekends bus trips.  “You Got Her in Your Pocket” is one of the quieter moments on the record, but its also one of the few times where Jack White puts lays off the noise, and reveals a haunting ballad thats akin to  The Rolling Stones “Under My Thumb”.  The rest of the biting lyrics I’ve always been partial to the line, “And in your own mind you’re lucky just enough to know her”.

Long live Elephant.

Albums You Respect But Don’t Love

After reading Paul Trynka’s Iggy: Open Up and Bleed, I was struck by his observation that Pop’s first solo album The Idiot is more respected than loved.  I thought about the statement for a bit, concluding The Idiot is a far more interesting album if you look at its influence as a pre-cursor to the new-wave movement.  You can hear the ghost of The Idiot in much of Joy Division’s work (indeed Ian Curtis had the album in his record player when he hanged himself.)  Just as The Stooges’ stripped down had paved the wave for punk years earlier, it’s only natural that their lead singer would create a work that would signify the death of punk, just as it was starting.

But I don’t really listen to The Idiot very much – I tend to listen to Lust For Life or any of the Stooges albums.  But this got me thinking: what other albums do I respect, but don’t love?

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changing

Obviously, this is an important record.  It’s Dylan at the height of his protest-era.  The title track is among his best, and will always be immortalized as an anthem for  “the people” frustrated at the government.  The Times They Are A-Changing works extremely well as a protest album, but that is also it’s major flaw.  For me, Dylan’s albums have always been varied but  The Times They Are A-Changing is a little too one dimensional in its attack on the establishment.  It almost seems like a slight step backward after the masterpiece of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan which found Dylan humorous, angry, and sad.

The Clash – Sandinista!

It’s easy to make a snide comment about the album triple album monster that is Sandinista! I once commented  it was ironic that for a band that bitched about prog-rock, they made one of the most pretentious albums of all time.  I don’t entirely take back that statement, but I’ve grown to appreciate Sandinista! more in recent years.  This is the sound of a band taking on every single genre of music (with mostly mixed results.)  There a few gems – “Charlie Don’t Surf”, “Somebody Got Murdered”, and “The Call-Up”.  But what other band besides The Clash would dare put out a 36 track album and weave their royalty fee so it would be priced at lower rate?

M.I.A. – Kala

I actually bought this album before “Paper Planes” blew up all over the charts due to the glowing reviews it got.  I listened to it a few times and forgot about it.  It’s an interesting album – full of samples from The Clash (“Paper Planes”) and the Pixies (“20 Dollar”) and setting third world music to a hip-hop beat.  Perhaps Kala will be seen as a water-mark for music in a few years.  For now my consensus is that it sounds awesome when you’re listening to it, but except for “Paper Planes” I couldn’t tell you how any of the songs go.

Beck – Odelay

One of the defining albums of the 90s for sure, but I’m not sure it’s aged well.  Its reliance sound relies on a collage of sounds, it seems stuck in the late 90’s.  Like Kala it sounds awesome, but too often I find Beck is so full of ideas that he incorporates as much as he can into one song – “Hotwax” and “Where It’s At” for instance.  And “Where It’s At” mock-rap just sounds embarrassing 14 years later. A great product of its time, but ultimately not timeless.

The White Stripes – Elephant

This album used to be on the “love” list actually.  “Seven Nation Army” remains of the best guitar-heavy singles of all time.  It also was inventive – the guitar sounded like a bass, and its hook wasn’t a vocal melody but rather a hypnotic guitar line.  If I complained Odelay was too scatter-shot, Elephant sounds too focused even while the songs rock.  Jack White wanted to achieve his own place in rock history with Elephant by making a modern days blues record.  But with the exception of “Seven Nation Army”, he failed to add bring anything new to the table.

What albums do you respect, but don’t love?