Noteworthy new albums
The White Stripes rip through the raucous new "Icky Thump," while Bon Jovi and Toby Keith take the long road to Nashville.
The White Stripes– Icky Thump (Warner Brothers): "I think songwriters are all junk collectors at heart," Jack White recently told Rolling Stone. And he should know. For the past half-decade, White and his ex-wife, Meg – together, the White Stripes – have happily presided over the sharp edges and glossy surfaces of the retro-rawk scrap heap. The Stripes are an explicitly derivative act; unlike fellow revivalists such as The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand, they've never had much use for modernism. Even 2005's "Get Behind Me Satan," which toyed with some experimental flourishes, was at heart a big-hearted garage album. So it should come as no surprise that the follow-up, "Icky Thump," is sexy, jagged, distorted, and conceptually static. The best tracks, "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" and "Bone Broke" work off familiar power-chord vamps – pure violence holds them together. But on anthems such as "I'm Slowly Turning Into You," even Meg's drumming, fierce and off-kilter as ever, can't mask the rote verses and mundane refrains. The Stripes recorded this album in three weeks, which is, one critic recently noted, a marathon session for the band. The strangely unevolved product stresses raucous sonic energy as its own reward. Grade: B-
– Matthew Shaer
Toby Keith – Big Dog Daddy (Show Dog Records): Beneath his 9/11 bluster and war of words with the Dixie Chicks a few years back, Toby Keith quietly has become one of country's most reliable songwriters, crafting effortless arena-ready tunes while turning out consistently strong albums. With his latest release, Keith follows a well-honed formula, from wry Red State blue-collar tales of woe ("High Maintenance Woman") to poignant balladry ("I Know She Hung the Moon"). The title track channels Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry by way of Nashville, while "Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya" revels in a Margaritaville-ready groove sure to make Kenny Chesney weep with envy. "Hit it, an ode to Jack Daniel's, comes off as clumsy and Keith still suffers when he turns into a proselytizer ("Love Me If You Can"). Those missteps aside, he remains a performer to be reckoned with, especially for those who reckon. Grade: B
– Erik Spanberg
Bon Jovi – Lost Highway (Island/Mercury Nashville): You give country a good name? Or something to that effect. On "Lost Highway," the Jersey rockers add a bit of Nashville twang (is that Big & Rich shouting over Richie Sambora's voice-box?) to their arena rock. The band nabbed a Grammy with 2005's "Who Says You Can't Go Home," a catchy midtempo number that leaned to country in a glossy, CMT way, with the help of Jennifer Nettles' guest vocals. Now they've recorded an entire album in Music City, with mixed results. A ballad with LeAnn Rimes ("Stranger"), works to perfection. "Summertime" has a strummy-anthem ambience, and the wistful "(You Want To) Make a Memory" purrs along nicely. The Nashville accents go down easily enough, but a few more stadium stompers would have been nice. Next time, Jon, think Jersey. After all, who says you can't go home? Grade: C+