White Stripes - Icky Thump

Angus Reid 30/05/2007

Rating: 5/5

Even before a single word has been sung you just know that this is the White Stripes. There's the familiar guitar and kick drum chug, an immediate identifier, but, for this single we also have a demented bagpipe-esque keyboard skronk that wiggles and fizzes over the track intermittently. It's an unmistakably retro sound, and one that has been as much a part of the White Stripes aesthetic as red clothes and unusual facial hair. That the two members of the band display so much of their own character through their performances just serves to take the listener into the strange dark world this song inhabits.

After the first verse, which sets the scene nicely, we're launched into a guitar riff the likes of which we haven't been treated to since the days of Led Zeppelin. There might be nothing particularly original about putting a simple beat over a distorted guitar riff, but it doesn't half feel good when it kicks in. Similarly, later on when we reach the guitar solo, with a sound so ripped you can hear the speaker waving a little white flag in surrender, it's not anything new, but it works brilliantly well and makes for a blast of fresh air from all the Kaiser Monkeys clones clogging up the charts. Lines such as "Well, Americans / What, nothin' better to do? / Why don't you kick yourself out? / You're an immigrant too." are as relevant to the current world politics as to the story of the song, and this gives the whole thing a grounding in the present and shows that it's not all about perfect retro pastiche.

That's the real charm of this record, and indeed this band. They've managed mainstream success while sounding completely different to everyone else out there (bar possibly the Black Keys), and though the oddball shtick might grate with some, it makes this single one of the most interesting of the year to date. Hopes will be high for the album after this.

Release date: 11/06/07