For all the talk and emphasis about using old recording equipment and no computers (underlined) on the recording of Elephant, it seems that perhaps The White Stripes thought they could pull one over on their listeners. Don't get on my case about just hating the hype, because I waited until all that died down before I gave this album a fair shake, and now that I have I simply don't understand what everyone is freaking out about. Granted, if I hadn't yet listened to White Blood Cells or any of their other albums, I may have thought it was the cats meow, but there is so much repetition on the disc, and so many attempts at a slight direction change in sound (at the appeasement of whom?) that I could barely get through the disc on first listen (and many tries later have simply given in to programming it to play my favorites).
To be fair, I thought the release was going to be another stunner after hearing the opening riff of "Seven Nation Army." The beatifully simple bassline ropes the listener as the track slowly builds into a total rock stomper with some flaming guitar riffs. "Black Math" follows it up with another junkyard guitar melody and some pummeling drums, and the two songs are some of the best work that the group has done to date, and one of the best lead-ins on any album I've gotten this year. Unfortunately, the album goes off the rails a bit from there, and even though "There's No Home For You Here" works things up with a huge backing chorus, it's just so damn similar to "Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground" that it's distracting.
At that point, I thought maybe the group was simply trying to pull a slight nod and wink, but "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" follows it up with a fairly straightforward crooner before dropping the absolutely boring "In The Cold Cold Night." I'll be honest in that I find it novel that the group finally decided to let Meg behind the microphone for once, but the fact remains that the song flat-out goes nowhere. If it were any other group than the White Stripes, I think most people would be holding back the cutesy points and instead wondering what went soft.
From there, "I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mothers Heart" treads the same ground that "The Same Boy You've Always Known," while "Little Acorns" mixes a spoken-word sample with a piano riff at the beginning before dropping off into a fuzzy-bass riff and some cheesy vocals that might be one of the groups most 'metal' moments ever. Shoehorned together, the two pieces of the track simply fail to work, though, and while "Ball And Biscuit" works a sweet, sly groove, it does so for a couple minutes too long. One of the best tracks on the second half the disc arrives in the second-to-last "Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine." With one of the flat-out catchiest tracks on the entire disc, it makes you wish they'd ended the disc there, instead of on the overly-clever "Well It's True That We Love One Another." A conversational song between the two Whites and Holly Golightly, it's a clunky closer to the half-baked release. In the end, it just feels like Elephant is the culmination of the group trying to please absolutely everyone and it instead feels like sort of a mess. It's not a horrible release, but don't believe the hype calling it an all-time classic.