Released: April 1, 2003
Peak: 6 US, 12 UK, 5 CN, 4 AU
Sales (in millions): 2.1 US, 0.86 UK, 5.7 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: garage rock revival
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Total Running Time: 49:56
4.393 out of 5.00 (average of 30 ratings)
Quotable: “Everything rock should be.” – Goliath
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
White Blood Cells, the third album from Detroit’s Jack and Meg White sold more than a half million copies and made stars of the formerly-married duo who claimed to be siblings. For their follow-up album, Elephant, the White Stripes “built out the raw garage rock from their first three albums into an entirely re-imagined sound, taking their pissed-off swagger and channeling it into ambition: blistering blues, whimsical folk, Stooges-esque punk, contemplative love tunes.” GQ Elephant “sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid, and stunning than its predecessor.” AMG “It’s more consistent, exploring disillusionment and rejection with razor-sharp focus.” AMG It is “everything rock should be; it’s fiery and loud on one track, soft and slow on the next, with poignant lyrics and absolutely devastating electric guitar.” GL
“In case we’d forgotten, we were reminded that Jack can fucking shred on guitar. GQ “This album contains some of the finest guitar work of this, or any, generation, both from a technical standpoint and an affective standpoint.” GL “You can almost feel the breeze from the amps on your face as the riffs strut out – and he squeezed more tone out of the electric guitar than almost anyone else that decade.” GU
The album “cemented Jack White’s reputation as a musical purist” PM and “much-lampooned fetish for analogue production.” GU “By recording the album entirely on pre-1960s equipment, White encapsulated the gritty open-wound rawness of the early delta blues masters he is heavily influenced by. Yet there is an indisputable modernism to Elephant that makes…[the White Stripes as] fresh sounding today as they did” PM then.
“Chip-on-the-shoulder anthems like the breathtaking opener, Seven Nation Army, which is driven by Meg White’s explosively minimal drumming, and The Hardest Button to Button, in which Jack White snarls ‘Now we're a family!’ – one of the best oblique threats since Black Francis sneered ‘It’s educational!’ all those years ago – deliver some of the fiercest blues-punk of the White Stripes’ career.” AMG “It’s now impossible to imagine a world without ‘Seven Nation Army,’ chanted from football terraces to political rallies.” GL What has been “coined the most recognizable riff in rock” GL “set the template for Elephant: brooding moods, measured out in eighths by Meg White, would tip over into cathartic squalls of blues rock.” GU
“There’s No Home for You Here sets a girl’s walking papers to a melody reminiscent of ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ (though the result is more sequel than rehash), driving the point home with a wall of layered, Queen-ly harmonies and piercing guitars, while the inspired version of I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself goes from plaintive to angry in just over a minute, though the charging guitars at the end sound perversely triumphant.” AMG
“At its bruised heart, Elephant portrays love as a power struggle, with chivalry and innocence usually losing out to the power of seduction. I Want to Be the Boy tries, unsuccessfully, to charm a girl’s mother.” AMG The “twisted acoustic soul” RS’11 of You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket, “a deceptively gentle ballad, reveals the darker side of the Stripes’ vulnerability, blurring the line between caring for someone and owning them with some fittingly fluid songwriting.” AMG
“The battle for control reaches a fever pitch on the ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’-esque Hypnotize, which suggests some slightly underhanded ways of winning a girl over before settling for just holding her hand.” AMG “The show-stopping Ball and Biscuit [is] seven flat-out seductive minutes of preening, boasting, and amazing guitar prowess” AMG and “electric-blues freakery” RS’11 “that ranks as one the band’s most traditionally bluesy (not to mention sexy) songs.” AMG “Interestingly, Meg’s star turn, In the Cold, Cold Night, is the closest Elephant comes to a truce in this struggle, her kitten-ish voice balancing the song’s slinky words and music.” AMG
“While the album is often dark, it’s never despairing; moments of wry humor pop up throughout, particularly toward the end. Little Acorns begins with a sound clip of Detroit newscaster Mort Crim’s Second Thoughts radio show, adding an authentic, if unusual, Motor City feel. It also suggests that Jack White is one of the few vocalists who could make a lyric like ‘Be like the squirrel’ sound cool and even inspiring.” AMG
“Likewise, the showy Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine – on which White resembles a garage rock snake-oil salesman – is probably the only song featuring the word ‘acetaminophen’ in its chorus.” AMG
“It’s True That We Love One Another, which features vocals from Holly Golightly as well as Meg White, continues the Stripes’ tradition of closing their albums on a lighthearted note.” AMG
“Almost as much fun to analyze as it is to listen to, Elephant overflows with quality – it’s full of tight songwriting, sharp, witty lyrics, and judiciously used basses and tumbling keyboard melodies that enhance the band's powerful simplicity (and the excellent The Air Near My Fingers features all of these).” AMG
“Crucially, the White Stripes know the difference between fame and success; while they may not be entirely comfortable with their fame, they've succeeded at mixing blues, punk, and garage rock in an electrifying and unique way ever since they were strictly a Detroit phenomenon. On these terms, Elephant is a phenomenal success.” AMG
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First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 8/8/2021.