Monday, June 13, 2005

Music Review: The White Stripes

Some place, beyond the adolescent bleating of pop-punk bands-of-the-week, the idiotic posturing of commercial-friendly hip hop and the rest of today’s impoverished FM radio choices, there is still honest-to-goodness, listenable American music. Front and center in this category is The White Stripes, a band, who, after appearing on the national stage a few years back with their fast-tempo relationship ode, “Fell in Love With a Girl,” has steadily established itself as an alt-rock standard. Following up on 2001’s “White Blood Cells,” the Stripes further fine-tuned their sound with the Grammy-nominated “Elephant” in 2003, an album which featured both piano-sprinkled love songs as well as bluesy dance tunes, recorded in a low-tech London studio, and featuring an appearance by English pop maven Holly Golighty. The band consists of singer-songwriter-guitarist Jack White and drummer-vocalist Meg White, who is either the sister or ex-wife of the ghostly pale front man, depending on whose story you believe: the fans’ or the myth-making P.R. machine that let slip the sibling canard in the first place. Brother and sister, husband and wife, the back story is a pointless distraction – Jack and Meg White make beautiful music together. The band’s latest effort, the mysterious and soulful “Get Behind Me Satan,” does nothing to change this family’s solid music-making tradition.

It’s refreshing to see a record in the age of downloads and radio singles that still pays attention to song arrangement; the opening for “…Satan,” the rollicking, garage-punk tune “Blue Orchid,” grabs you from the first with its “Seven Nation Army”-like toe-tapping beat and makes you eager for more. The song begins with a helicopter flourish drum solo from Meg and quickly breaks into straight-forward rock propelled by Jack’s falsetto voice. “The Nurse,” the album’s second track, switches things up with a slower sound and a marimba, the vibraphone-type percussion instrument played with mallets. All the songs on “Get Behind Me Satan” were, once again, written by Jack, and a listen to “The Nurse” or the album’s seventh song, “White Moon,” is a real example of a songwriter getting better with age. Other gems include “Take, Take, Take,” a sexy and perfectly danceable dirty acoustic jam about the highs and lows of modern celebrity, as well as “Forever For Her (Is Over For Me),” which might be the best structured song from start to finish on the entire record. The piano ballad finale, a tongue-in-cheek yet strangely touching song called “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)” is also worth your time, just don’t ask if it’s about the Whites’ enigmatic relationship. And yet: there are a couple of misfires. “Passive Manipulation,” the album’s ninth track, is handled exclusively by Meg vocally and suffers from a preciousness which makes it sound more silly than sweet. “Manipulation” is, however, mercifully short at thirty-five seconds. Additionally, “Instinct Blues,” a flabby blues track, attempts to be willfully anachronistic and suffers from childish lyrics and a wayward playing time of four minutes and sixteen seconds. There are some sparks in “Instinct Blues” but the sheer wooliness of this unfocused song eventually does it in.

Buy this album and play it regularly. On “Get Behind Me Satan,” The White Stripes continue to surprise and entertain. Best tracks: “Blue Orchid”; “Forever For Her…”; “Take, Take, Take”; “I’m Lonely...”


Sonia said...
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Daingerous said...
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