Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Today's favorite White Stripes song: "The Hardest Button to Button." The foundation is very solid: a "Louie Louie" variation via "You Really Got Me," with the teeth-grinding, before "Between the Buttons" message of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." You can picture Jack tearing his shirt (his pants?) apart in annoyance.

Monday, May 05, 2003


by Wayne Robins

I'm digging the White Stripes these days: Sunday I just drove around so I could play a CD a friend gave me that features tracks from their four albums. They're on the cover of every rock magazine these days, but I try not to read the stories. Their music has buzz enough for me.

Some months ago I downloaded a lengthy White Stripes file, which turned out to be an interview of Jack (he's the guitar) and Meg (she's the drums) done by a Vancouver radio reporter. The reporter's kooky enthusiasm was matched by a thorough knowledge of Detroit rock trivia: She seemed to blow their minds with her zany gumption and deep knowledge.

It was a keen point to make, since the Stripes strike me as very much the distillation of various strands of Michigan rock roots: John Lee Hooker's working in the auto factory blues meets the MC5's rebellion against the auto factory system meets Grand Funk's laid-off from the auto factory survival toolbox. Add the hillbilly ethic of towns like Pontiac, where country music dives thrived and which seemed more like Tennessee than Michigan when I spent time there in 1975. The Whites break it all down, then glue it back together with their own severe savoir faire, not to mention panache, not to mention je ne se quois...whatever It is, they've got It.

Blender accompanies its more-interesting-than-most cover story (May 2003) with a sidebar of its own selection of a dozen tracks it would burn, if it did such things. I share some upfront: the dense, invigorating "Seven Nation Army," the maniacal damnation of "I Think I Smell A Rat," and their on-the-money cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." From my disk, I love "The Big Three Killed My Baby," which I'm still deciphering, "Hotel Yorba," a Wim Wenders kind of joint. The deliciously desperate "Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground," reeks of oily Detroit metal and Led Zep dreams. My favorite Stripes cut may be "Lord Send Me An Angel," Blind Willie McTell's sexually charged tune of bravado and fear that Jack White makes into his own personalized business card.
(McTell sings of Georgia women; Jack White has one of "Detroit brown.")

My own White Stripes consumer advice would be: buy all you can get your hands on. The new album is "Elephant."
(c) Wayne Robins 2003. All rights reserved. Comments?

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