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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: White Stripes, Bon Jovi and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2007

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The White Stripes, “Icky Thump” (Third Man/Warner Bros.)***1/2

Jack and Meg White may not reside in — or even think kindly about — their native Detroit these days. But “Icky Thump” makes it hard to resent the once-married duo; it’s one of the best, if not the best, of the Stripes’ six long-players, continuing and expanding on the sonic experimentation that marked 2003’s “Elephant” and 2005’s “Get Behind Me Satan” with more keyboards plus mariachi trumpets, bagpipes and mandolin. Amid all that, however, the duo, and particularly Jack White, have found their inner Led Zeppelin; “Icky Thump” is the loudest set the Stripes have ever cranked out, centered on sometimes psychedelic bluesbased riffs that hark back to the rawness of the group’s earliest work, accented by the occasional acoustic piece, resulting in an album that often comes off like Zep’s “III.” The title track kicks things off with a gear-shifting, almost prog-rock dynamic attack that would make Frank Zappa proud. “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)” sounds like a rootsy front-porch jam played with the loudest amplifiers in town, the suite “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn”/“St. Andrew (This Battle is in the Air)” heads for the Celtic Highlands — where it resides next to the aforementioned Zep’s “White Summer” — and “Effect and Cause” is a convincing country blues. “Rags and Bones” offers a playful, roleplaying dialogue between the two Stripes, while the ebb-and-flow of “A Martyr for My Love to You” is perhaps the most gentle and unconflicted romantic paean Jack has ever committed to disc. “Icky Thump’s” breadth — from the acoustic groovery of “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues” to the stomp of “Little Cream Soda” and the swirl of “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” — is jarring but striking, and it seldom (save for an overwrought cover of Patti Page’s “Conquest”) fails to bring it home.


Bon Jovi, “Lost Highway” (Mercury Nashville) **1/2

Much has been made about this being the New Jersey rockers’ “country” album. While that would make sense after last year’s surprising crossover success with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” “Lost Highway” is more accurately seen as what Bon Jovi sounds like recording in Nashville — a few more mandolins and fiddles, a little more twang, but not an album that steps too far afield from the inherently melodic and crafted fare the group has been giving us since the early ’80s. Bon Jovi does make the most of “country cousins” such as Big & Rich (“We Got it Going On”) and LeAnn Rimes (“Stranger”), and the Music City touches of producer Dann Huff add some welcome flavor to what might otherwise be rote rockers such as “Any Other Day,” “I Love This Town,” “Whole Lot of Leaving” and the title track.


The Aliens, “Astronomy for Dogs” (Astralwerks) — The debut release from the new band started by former Beta Band member Gordon Anderson (aka Lone Pigeon).

Art Brut, “It’s a Bit Complicated” (Downtown) — The second full-length album from the British buzz quartet.

Deborah Cox, “Destination Moon” (Decca) — The R&B diva gets sophisticated on this set of songs made famous by the late singing great Dinah Washington.

Donnie, “The Daily News” (SoulThought) — R&B with a socially conscious agenda, reminiscent of the best of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway.

Marvin Gaye, “In Our Lifetime?: The Expanded Love Man Edition” (Hip-O Select) — The late soul great’s final album for Motown features a second disc that includes a complete alternate version reflecting Gaye’s original concept.

The Hackensaw Boys, “Look Out” (Nettwerk) — The Americana group’s latest album features two songs by part-time member Tom Peloso, who also logs time in Modest Mouse.

Huey, “Notebook Paper” (Jive) — The St. Louis-born rapper’s debut sports guest appearances by T-Pain, Yo Gotti, YoungBloodZ and more.

Marshall Tucker Band, “Next Adventure” (Ramblin’/ Shout! Factory) — The Southern rockers include songs by founding members Toy Caldwell and George McCorkle on their new set.

The Mooney Suzuki, “Have Mercy” (Elixia) — Despite the demise of their previous label, the New York rockers are cheerfully upbeat on their fourth album.

Mandy Moore, “Wild Hope” (Firm Music) — Bidding for artistic credibility (no “Candy” here), the singer-actress co-wrote songs with Chantal Kreviazuk, Rachael Yamagata, the Weepies and others for her latest release.

Brad Paisley, “5th Gear” (Arista) — What could be more country than singing about checking your lover for “Ticks”? We’ll “Gear” up for that any day.

Polyphonic Spree, “Fragile Army” (TVT) — The 24-member “choral rock” ensemble from Dallas trades in the choir robes for army uniforms on its third outing.

Queen V, “Death or Glory” (Royal Noise) — The New Jersey rocker’s sophomore album features guest contributions by Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Rage Against the Machine/ Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello.

Shop Boyz, “Rockstar Mentality” (OnDeck/Republic) — The debut album from the Atlanta rap trio includes instructions on how to “Party Like a Rock Star.”

Straylight Run, “Needles in Space” (Republic) — The sophomore album from the sibling-fronted duo formed by a pair of ex-Taking Back Sunday members.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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