It's awfully difficult to follow up a great album. Expectations are sky-high and oftentimes the next album is nowhere near as good. The White Stripes' past two albums--2003's Elephant and 2005's Get Behind Me Satan--won Grammys. The band's sixth full-length, Icky Thump, took the longest of any White Stripes album to record--three whole weeks--but ultimately lives up to the band's pedigree.
Consisting of Jack and Meg White, the White Stripes are a two-piece, but don't sound like one. They keep finding ways to make it fresh, adding in distortion, wild guitar riffs and musical guests. The duo incorporate other instruments into their repertoire for a trio of songs--trumpets on "Conquest" and bagpipes on "Prickly Thorn, But Secretly Worn" and "St. Andrew"--and the additions work well. It's not as if they shoe-horned them into existing White Stripes fare, but rather used them to create something different. It's as if the duo took a bunch of styles, threw them in a blender and thrashed it all together. Some songs contain more of one style than another, but the entire thing feels like a continuous and fresh creation.
For a decade and six albums, the White Stripes have continually churned out eccentric and expressive albums. Since their debut, fans and critics alike have been waiting for them to make a misstep. Combining elements of folksy twang, blues guitar and full-steam-ahead rock with their usual fare, Icky Thump is yet another triumph for Detroit's dynamic duo and raises the bar yet again for their eventual follow-up project.