32.) The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)
Damn, Elephant is a really great record. Elephant signified the moment when the garage rock revival that began in '01 became solidified. Seeing as how none of the other "the" bands would live up to their potential, it fell on the White Stripes to ensure that the whole movement wouldn't end up being a punch line. Elephant did just that.
I remember how excited I was for the release of Elephant. It was akin to my excitement regarding the release of In Utero nearly a decade earlier. There's probably something to that - there's a good possibility that there wasn't a band I had been more excited by than the Stripes since Nirvana. Hmmm. Could be. At any rate, Elephant is quintessential rock 'n roll - steeped in the blues but electrified and plugged in. It's basically a classic rock record. I wondered if Jack White sold his soul to the devil to play guitar like that.
Jack White loves his heroes. He idolizes them and he pays tribute to them all over Elephant - from Robert Johnson to Jimmy Page, Dusty Springfield and Burt Bacharach. The hodgepodge of influences make Elephant an exciting ride. There's something for everybody and it all felt so big. For a band that was cutting their teeth in an indie scene (and they were a two piece!), their sound was so full. They became rock stars on this record and deservedly so. What they were doing wasn't new, but at the time it was fresh. Rock 'n roll, I mean real rock 'n roll, had dipped out of the mainstream but Elephant made it sexy again.
Since Elephant Jack White has become a ubiquitous force not just in rock music, but in the zeitgeist itself. He's everywhere. He has a million bands, he's been in movies and I'm not sure any of that would have happened had Elephant not been so damn good. I'd have to point to Jack as being the musician that most defined this decade for me - with Jay-Z a close second. He never took a break and every record he's been involved in, from his work with Loretta Lynn down through The Dead Weather and the Racontours, has had something interesting in it. As for the White Stripes - they've been consistently good since Elephant. Maybe not as top to bottom perfect on record, but still damn good and incredibly important. I know the legacy doesn't start with Elephant, but it was firmly planted by it.
Posted by Pat Driscoll