With his penchant for meaningless self-indulgence and fickle obsession with all that’s elemental about pop music, Jack White maintains a certain distance from even his most ardent fans. I have less of a problem with Meg White’s limited drumming than I do with The White Stripes’ lack of bass guitar, but Jack wouldn’t be Jack without his peccadilloes, and in any case he’s got his other band, The Raconteurs, to scratch any conventional rock-band itch.
After the instrumental experimentation of “Get Behind Me Satan,” the refocus on loud blues guitar sounds great. If “Icky Thump” is compositionally inferior to its predecessor, it compensates with better riffs and a wackier, more inviting world view. When Jack does get experimental, it’s tempting to wonder if his recent marriage to an English model didn’t somehow turn him into Damon Albarn, but then he whirls around and shoots out “Little Cream Soda,” a white-hot hard-rock tune that is more characteristic of the album’s overall tone. Given that the record was put together in Nashville, it’s surprising there are no country songs, but being a self-indulgent, fickle obsessive means never having to live up to expectations.