Most helpful positive review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The White Stripes - Come back baby I wish you would
on 26 March 2010
It seems like an eternity since the White Stripes graced the music scene with there explosive and visceral punk rock blues. In 2007 Meg White experienced "acute anxiety problems" and in effect the White Stripes were put onto the back burner while Jack White went off in all directions with side projects such as the Raconteurs and Dead Weather. As excellent as some of these have been "Under Great White Northern lights" reminds us what we have been missing and on this blistering evidence we can only hope that Meg conquers her demons. As Drowned in Sound have stated this record "serves, more than anything else, as a reminder of just how singularly odd the White Stripes are, and how boring things are without them around".
Recorded on a Canadian tour in 2007 in a range of venues so small they have bought a round from the stage The White Stripes blast through a live "Best of". The album starts with bagpipes, an audience probably seven sheets to the wind and then that wonderful noise that these two great musicians whip up with a ferocity that is almost sadistic. The first guitar solo on "Lets shake hands" nearly stripped the wallpaper from my front room and its one of the quieter songs on the album! Anyone experiencing this live set must still be suffering from tinnitus since the whole thing is monstrously loud and Jack's playing is like a Viking raid on a quiet hamlet. Truth be told its pretty relentless stuff and your neighbours will quake in fear if they see you smuggling this album into your house.
"Ball and Biscuit" is transformed from the seven minute behemoth on "Elephant" into a three minute gospel like blues whig out with Jack stretching notes as far as they will go and Meg's drumming pounding away with a brutality rarely captured on studio albums. Great versions follow of other WS standards and "Icky Thump" in particular is thrashed, beat up and burned. It proves that the White Stripes at full tilt are untouchable and truly the most exciting rock to emerge in the past twenty years. Yes on occasions the album does suffer "live album syndrome" for example if your partial to a crowd singalong the versions of "I don't know what to do with myself" and "Seven Nation Army" will please you but the studio versions are far superior. You would have also thought that the uber powerful "Black Math" might work better live but here it becomes less restrained and more of a thrash and by doing so loses some of its menace. That said the versions of "300 MPH Torrential Outpoor blues" is excellent,"Fell in love with a girl" is the usual brilliance and "Jolene" is bang on the mark.
I've only seen certain songs from the accompanying DVD but for fans of the band this is a key document. It must also suffice until the much hinted proper new release from the White Stripes follows. For those new to the Stripes "White Blood Cells" or "Elephant" should be the starting point but for those who like to take a risk and want to hear the guitar played as a howl of protest and drums subject to minimalist pounding then this is for you. The late John Peel once said about this band that "I've not been affected by anything as much as this since punk, perhaps even since I first heard Jimi Hendrix." Its judgement that still holds true since even on this varied live album they are on times a complete force of nature.