For the week of 5/7/2012…

“Ball & Biscuit” by The White Stripes

With a run-time of 7.5 minutes, this is easily the longest song in the White Stripes’ canon.  Now, when a band does a song this long, it’s generally classified as an “epic.”  That brings along with it certain responsibilities.  Despite its length, the song should make sense as a whole.  It can’t get too repetitive or otherwise boring.  And it probably should be something on the loud side, because 7.5 minutes of quiet music, while perhaps perfectly lovely, will probably put a lot of listeners to sleep.

Fortunately, “Ball and Biscuit” delivers.  It’s a coherent whole; it’s never boring; and it rocks hard and loud.  Although “Seven Nation Army,” “The Hardest Button to Button,” etc. are certainly better known, this is the track that serves as the centerpiece of the Stripes’ landmark album, Elephant.  It’s an electric blues about sex, or drugs, or both – I’m not sure which.  But this is a guitar showcase first and foremost, as Jack White feverishly works through captivating solo after captivating solo, each one full of distorted, overdriven blues licks.  This track defines Jack White as a guitarist, and it’s arguably the White Stripes’ masterpiece.  Recording an epic despite being labeled a “garage rock” band is no small feat.

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