Looking Back at The White Stripes

Categories: bands we like
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The duo collectively known as The White Stripes, Jack and Meg White, are no more. They have disbanded, but the memory of their talent and musicianship will always be celebrated. Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jack and drummer Meg formed their band in 1997 in Detroit, releasing their eponymous debut album two years later. Although the band haven't released a studio album in four years, they have consistently produced excellent material over the years, including 2010's live record, Under Great White Northern Lights.

Arguably their high-water mark, 2001's White Blood Cells was a fluid masterpiece. Songs such as "Fell In Love With a Girl" and "Hotel Yorba" were remarkable. The band also dedicated their first three albums to roots-music stalwarts: the bluesmen Son House and Blind Willie McTell and country singer Loretta Lynn. Their fourth album, Elephant, was one of 2003's best. It was recorded on pre-1983 analog equipment, and even though the sound didn't progress all that much from the prior albums, it didn't really matter. The album still fucking rocked.

Below is Chris Ziegler's review of the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan (V2 Records) from June 30, 2005:

The White Stripes

By CHRIS ZIEGLER Thursday, Jun 30 2005


THEWHITESTRIPES
GetBehindMeSatan
(V2Records)

WHAT THEY SAY: Well, this is a very . . . different record, and it's weird, and it takes a long time to get into, if you can even get into it at all, and it doesn't sound anything like the usual White Stripes, so . . . it must be genius!

WHAT WE SAY: An obviously rushed set of average-to-poor White Stripes songs, each sadly quirkier than the last: processed disco drums ("The Nurse"), poisonously cute Stevie Wonder piano ("My Doorbell"), new lyrics for age-old standard "Wreck of the Ol' 97" ("Little Ghost") and Meg reluctantly reading some cue cards into a vintage mic ("Passive Manipulation," which is Satan's built-in bathroom break). The publicity says the White Stripes wrote and recorded Satan in two weeks, a starvation-diet sort of bid to force a certain raw authenticity. But while Satan does sometimes deliver an appealing looseness--the slippery, unrehearsed guitar break on "Instinct Blues"--that's the sort of pity compliment the White Stripes should have stopped deserving two albums back. This would have been laughed to shreds if people weren't so used to rubber-stamping everything Jack White does: Satan sounds like unfinished demos dumped out to meet a deadline, with a few exceptions that hint at the real potential wasted in this two-week session. The strongest songs--the songs that aren't just one repetitive riff dressed up in lots of different outfits--are Jack's slow and sad solo works "As Ugly As I Seem" and "I'm Lonely (But I'm Not That Lonely Yet)." Unlike the rest of the record, which seems like it arrived at the studio bristling with Post-it notes like "PUT MARIMBA HERE!" and "GET SOME GOOD DRUM SAMPLEZ!!!", "Ugly" and "Lonely" are complete and coherent songs performed--as they were written--by one man with one instrument (plus, like, bongo overdubs, but that's only sort of an instrument): "Ugly" snips a melody from the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' "Fire Engine" and adds it to the Kinks' "Tell Me Now So I'll Know," and the solemn piano on "Lonely"--which would have been a beautiful if uncommercial single--lightens a Plastic Ono Band confessional with a gospel melody from Sam Cooke's Soul Stirrers. The evidence (if you're looking) to prove the White Stripes' evolution is there and only there, not in mistaking the clenched-teeth novelty on the rest of Satanfor innovation. But then again: Jack White has always been a capable and flexible songwriter, with the same sort of chameleon ability as Lou Reed (and until now, without the same inconsistency). Expecting the White Stripes to put out a trick poodle of an album just to prove they don't have to play loud all the time demeans us all.

BEST PART: "White Moon," an embarrassing geyser of June/spoon baby-babble, which peaks with White's line ". . . and the word is the bird." V2 Records presents: Great Moments in Man Completely Not Giving a Shit.

Listen to songs from Get Behind Me Satan below:

1. Blue Orchid (Listen)
2. The Nurse (Listen)
3. My Doorbell (Listen)
4. Forever for Her (Is Over for Me) (Listen)
5. Little Ghost (Listen)
6. The Denial Twist (Listen)
7. White Moon (Listen)
8. Instinct Blues (Listen)
9. Passive Manipulation (Listen)
10. Take, Take, Take (Listen)
11. As Ugly As I Seem (Listen)
12. Red Rain (Listen)
13. I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) (Listen)

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