Song 135: The White Stripes, “Ball and Biscuit” (2003)


Elephant may have the most fitting album name in history. The record, with its uncluttered arrangements and production, is simple but heavy and lumbering. The songs sound like they’re coming at you, slowly but menacingly, and you won’t be able to dodge them in time.

I love the unstoppable “Seven-Nation Army” and the frightening “Hardest Button to Button,” but “Ball and Biscuit” is the album’s standout track. It showcases Jack White’s incredible guitar skills, especially his ability to hold back. The tension that results from his restraint in the verses makes the subsequent explosions all the more ferocious, and his lyrics are both rooted in blues mythology and something new entirely (“It’s quite possible I’m your third man girl/But it’s a fact that I’m the seventh son”).

There are plenty of great White Stripes records, but I think Elephant is the best thing they ever did. It’s a big, scary album, but it’s also, much of the time, quiet, subtle, and mysterious. White may be a master guitarist, but he’s just as good at being a consummate showman–even (or especially) when he’s creeping you out.


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