The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

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1. Easily their best. But if this thing had “Seven Nation Army” on it, this would be their bestest.

2. Most of the songs here are around 2-minutes long. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because the ugliest moments on the album, like “Expecting” and “Aluminum” come and go so fast, that there’s really no point in expending energy to hit the “Next” button on your music playing device. A curse, because the White Stripes clearly understood that had they submitted an album with only 12-14 tracks, people would’ve remarked on the brevity of the album, which is why tracks like “Expecting” and “Aluminum” exist in the first place.

3. Unlike most other garage rock revival bands, the White Stripes benefit from having extremely personable members. If also helps that there’s only two to keep track of. On that note, can we stop picking on Meg White right this second? Firstly, I find her to be a more competent drummer than whoever that guy is behind the kit of the Strokes, but since no one knows his name, we throw stones at Meg White instead. Yeah, she does nothing more than keep time, but who cares? The White Stripes’ modus operandi is that of voluntary simplicity, and moreover, when she’s banging out on the same drum (probably too scared to switch things up), Jack White more than compensates (read: he doesn’t overcompensate, since that term implies so much compensation that it provokes a negative reaction. He more than compensates in a perfect way). For empirical evidence, go listen to “Little Room.” It’s 50 seconds long, so it won’t kill you.

4. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes.

5. Oh, and I love “Little Room.” Every Sunday, washing dishes in the university cafeteria for 9-hour shifts with my friend, we made damn sure “Little Room” was on the playlist, and every time it came on, we yodelled along with Jack White like tuneless idiots.

6. Another example of their voluntary simplicity is in the breakdown on Citizen Kane-inspired “Union Forever,” where Jack White completely stops playing the guitar while Meg White just taps out the beat on her drumsticks. Does she really need to be doing anything else?

7. Jack White? Well, he’s adorable. I mean that from a listener’s perspective, but I have it on good authority that plenty of girls find him easy on the eyes too. It apparently does not matter if he’s writing a country-ditty, a garage rock revival staple or a Jack Johnson-esque song (that Jack Johnson will go on to cover), he gives these songs an added dimension through both his lyrics and delivery, as to say “Who needs more than a two-piece band?”

8. Listen to the not-even-remotely-forced-though-it-really-should-be rhymes in “Hotel Yorba,” “It’s 1-2-3-4 / Grab your umbrella / Grab a hold of me / Cause I’m your favorite fella.” Cute, innit?

9. If you can keep up on “Fell In Love With a Girl,” you’ll find the occasional gem like “She turns and said “are you alright?” / I said “I must be fine cause my heart’s still beating,”” or “These two sides of my brain need to have a meeting.” But equally important to the lyrics are the delivery, which are shouted with such urgency that it leaves no room for questions from the audience. “Fell in love once and almost completely”—almost completely what? The next line, “She’s in love with the world,” sure doesn’t answer us. “Bobby says it’s fine he don’t consider it cheating now.” Who the fuck is Bobby? Why now? What happened before this that implies he would’ve considered it cheating then? But to both these questions, Jack White gives us the answer. “Who cares?”

10. I don’t particularly care for the closer, “This Protector.” It seems to be a conscious effort to switch up their guitar + drums formula, something they’ll be doing more and more of with later albums, this one featuring a lone Jack White on the piano. I don’t know, it seems to be the sort of thing you’re likely to hear at a piano bar with an amateur pianist. The only remarkable thing to note is White’s “Now, now, now, now, now!”, only because a) Jack White stops playing piano during that section and b) it’s the only melodic part of the song.

11. Elsewhere, there’s way his voice verges on breaking during “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known,” which gives it an emotional edge, or the clever ending of “I’m Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman,” a testament to his prowess as a songwriter. At this point in time, when garage rock revival was just starting to rear its ugly head (even though the White Stripes have been to be on their third album), you couldn’t find these qualities in their contemporaries. Which means, so far as I’m concerned, that this is also the best garage rock revival album of 2001. This is it. 

12. On rock (‘n’ roll), Robert Christgau offered this in an interview years ago, “One of the things about rock ‘n’ roll, and its excitement, is that it’s about youth, and discovering your power. It’s about growing up. It’s about forming yourself in public.” This is essentially why the White Stripes were the band for me before I hit my twenties. This is also why I reject Pitchfork’s Dan Kilian and Rob Schreiber’s assessment of “We’re Going to be Friends” as “the closest thing to a dud on this record.” Again, the name of the game is voluntary simplicity; I don’t think Meg White is responsible for the beat here; it could just as easily be Jack White tapping it out with his foot, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the easiest song to fingerpick ever. It just reminds me of a simpler time, when the only thing I had to worry about regarding the opposite sex wasn’t messy things like feelings or sex. It was cooties, man, which the narrator sure as sunshine doesn’t care about, probably because he knew that thing was curable with a “Circle circle dot dot / Now I got my cootie shot.”

It also reminds me of juiceboxes. Whatever happened to those? It sure beat pouring yourself a glass out of an unwieldy 2L container.

Oh, and it also reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite. Which was a greatfilm.

A-

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