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2000’s Favourites- Music: the best album of the decade

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/11/Elephant%2C_The_White_Stripes.png
Besides winning two Grammy awards, the fourth album from the White Stripes was sheer awesomeness

For the first instalment of Tevy’s 2000’s favourites, I’m focusing on music. It’s separate from the entertainment category because unlike TV and movies, music has this completely different realm to it where it’s not just acting and putting on a show. And I will probably always appreciate a good song instead of a good show. I don’t play any instruments, which is something I regret not learning to do, but I still have my ears, so they’ll do.

In the 2000s, I was exposed to something beyond the mainstream noise of Much Music and their Dance Mix CDs. It was beyond anything I’d ever heard on Kiss 92.5. Better than Eminem’s “lovely lyrics.” It was a kind of music I myself said wasn’t that good. But then I came to my senses.

Rock music.

Classic rock, modern rock, punk rock, alternative, punk… you name the sub-genre, I found rock appealing and different and it would be my choice of music for the decade.

I made a list of 16 bands that I adore, which was back in 2005 when I was enamoured in Classic rock icons such as Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Van Halen, Rolling Stones, Beatles, AC/DC and Queen and Grunge music legends such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

The solo was my favourite. Whether it was guitar, drum, bass, keyboard, I loved and imitated it anyway I could (Airplaying!!)

But as I look back throughout the decade and try to think what band/album or song really captured my imagination, one album stands out.

My favourite album of the decade is The White Stripes’ Elephant, released back in 2003.

It includes my favourite song of the decade – Seven Nation Army and set the path for my favourite music video – The Hardest Button to Button.

Being my age, I still had a liking for modern rock. Some of my favourite acts included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sam Roberts, Coldplay, Metallica, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, U2, Sum 41 (for the first half of the decade), and Green Day.

2003 was my favourite year in music in the 2000’s. It’s probably because it was the last year I bought CDs. Along with the Red Hot Chili PeppersBy The Way and Sam Roberts ‘ We Were Born in a Flame, I would listen to these three CD’s on my CD player to death. I was slow when it came to downloading music with MP3s so I was still a CD buyer and these three CDs would travel with me across the world. You could say the appreciation was much greater because even though I was drawn by the singles on the radio, to buy the album with my own money and play it from start to finish over and over again shows a great deal of respect for that music. And today where although great in organizing music, there’s a great sense of detachment from the music, which clearly devalues the quality.

But Elephant was just something else. Never before had I been completely into a band and an album. Sure I’d listen to other CD’s to death but Elephant just rocked. Consisting of only guitarist/keyboard/lead singer Jack White and Meg White on drums, somehow the band creates absolute awesomeness. In the liner notes, it says that no computers were used in the making of the album. Jack White produced the album with very old equipment, including an eight-track tape machine and pre-1960s recording gear.

That is talent and I have much respect for them. And I guess it only makes sense that they made the music the old-fashioned way and I ended up listening to it the very same way as well.

I ended up seeing them in concert on November 13, 2003 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto in support of the album. The show was phenomenal. They were supposed to perform in August but postponed because of Jack sustaining a hand injury. And even though he couldn’t move a finger normally by show time, he still played the hell out of that guitar.

This band doesn’t care about making noise with their actions and mouths and fashion (while they do have crazy clothing, it’s just for show and I like their red, white and black colour combinations). They’d rather make noise with their music. And that’s what it’s all about. There’s passion, quality, energy with no strings attached.

Heather Phares from Allmusic.com had this to say about the album:

Elephant captures this contradiction within the Stripes and their music; it’s the first album they’ve recorded for a major label, and it sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid, and stunning than its predecessor. Darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells, the album offers nothing as immediately crowd-pleasing or sweet…, but it’s more consistent, exploring disillusionment and rejection with razor-sharp focus.

The makeup of the album’s first song, my favourite, Seven Nation Army, is a microcosm for the entire album. It’s simple, yet elaborate. Those seven notes on that guitar, which everyone thinks is a bass are catchy, and the drums kick in. It’s a simple beat, followed by the vocals.  Then it explodes!! Loud and distorted guitar sounds carry those notes.

And than after the second verse, comes something rather foreign in the regression of music through the decade. I’m talking about a fantastic guitar solo. With the exception of a few band (such as RHCP where John had been doing solos on previous albums anyway), guitar solos were foolishly abandoned in many modern rock songs. For what were they replaced with? More singing, an extra chorus, and a bridge that’s slightly different to the verses? I don’t really know, but Elephant delivered guitar solos unlike any other band in the decade.

Maybe people think Guitar Hero has become the substitution for guitar solos in today’s music. Sure, the popular game of the decade was changed the way a lot of us listen to and “play” music, and sure, it may have brought the guitar back into the limelight. But to me, it’s just a game that increases the saturation music. I like playing the game but that doesn’t mean it’s helped create better music today.

It was actually after listening to the second song of the album – Black Math, where I was hooked. That song just rocks. Guitar driven, fast paced, up-tempo, straightforward awesome rock.

The album had variety too. While the first four songs are up-tempo garage-rock beats, the fifth song completely changes gears. Turning up the bass to eleven so you can hear it in the background after the very quiet, soft, and bluesy riff, you begin to hear a different voice, that belonging to Meg, who sings softly. That’s In The Cold, Cold Night, a signature track amongst White Stripes diehards.

The next song, while a little more up-tempo and with Jack back on the mic, you get to hear just how talented Jack is as a musician. Throughout I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart, Jack switches back and forth between guitar and keyboard. It’s a chilled out song with a groovy solo.

The next song is another quiet acoustic song, no drums, just Jack and guitar. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket is a sing-along song, but it’s a sweet song. Get your lighters in the air for this one.

The next song is just something else. Ball and Biscuit sounds like something that could be found on album like Led Zeppelin I (one of my favourite’s albums of all-time), it’s that awesome.  Clocked in at 7:19, the longest song on the album has likes of anold-time classic rock super song, which when played live can be considered the best song of the set list.  The bluesy song has THREE guitar solos. That’s right, three solos, each one better than the other. Great song.

The last song I’ll talk about is The Hardest Button to Button. Like Seven Nation Army, it’s simple yet elaborate. The beginning makes it out to be a trance song but then the riff kicks, with drums and the song goes on from there. It actually has no guitar solo, but I think making up for it is the music video. The video uses pixilation animation to create the effect of dozens of drum kits and guitar amplifiers multiplying to the rhythm of the song as Jack and Meg perform. Simple, yet elaborate. And awesome.


—-

The only other album I can think of that’s had a similar effect as Elephant is Metallica‘s Death Magnetic. Though I don’t own the album, I’ve listened to the songs to death and like the Stripes I saw them on their corresponding tour. As much as I like the music, back when Elephant came out, there was no You Tube or an excess of methods to hear older White Stripes material without throwing out some money. It was just me, a CD-player, the album and time. Elephant was unexpected and that rocked. They’ve made more albums since, but nothing will really compare to Elephant.

Thanks for the music, Jack and Meg.

musicTop from Left: Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, George Bush. Bottom from left: Vince Carter’s best slam, N’ Sync, Corey Mandell (DJ and founder of Mandell Entertainment)
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