White Stripes

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White Stripes (1999), 6/10
De Stijl (2000), 6.5/10
White Blood Cells (2001), 7/10
Elephant (2003), 6.5/10
Get Behind Me Satan (2005), 6/10
Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers (2006), 6/10
Icky Thump (2007), 6.5/10
Raconteurs: Consolers Of The Lonely (2008), 6/10
Jack White: Blunderbuss (2012), 6/10
Jack White: Lazaretto (2014), 5.5/10
Jack White: Boarding House Reach (2018), 6.5/10
Jack White: Fear of the Dawn (2022), 6/10
Jack White: Entering Heaven Alive (2022), 4.5/10

If "post-rock" was the key to understanding the 1990s, "pre-rock" was the key to understanding the early 2000s. White Stripes is Detroit-based couple Jack White and his wife Meg White, a guitar and drums duo. A few singles introduced their old-fashioned blues-rock: Let's Shake Hands (Italy, 1997), Lafayette Blues, The Big Three Killed My Baby (Sympathy For The Record Industry).

White Stripes (Sympathy, 1999), recorded in their basement, was a modest endeavour that rekindled visions of Jon Spencer covering Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin (The Big Three Killed My Baby, Sugar Never Tasted So Good, Jimmy the Exploder). Leveraging atonal guitars, sloppy vocals and trash rhythms, the White Stripes achieved a sense of poignancy and urgency that is truly the soul of the blues.

The more professional De Stijl (Sympathy, 2000) offered a wealth of sonic extracts of blues music without actually playing blues music. You're Pretty Good Looking is classic power-pop, with a refrain and a riff that have been heard countless times since the early Kinks singles. Apple Blossom apes the catchy folk-rock of the Turtles. Best of the melodic items is perhaps Sister Do You Know My Name, boosted by lilting piano figures.
On the other hand, Hello Operator boasts the aggressive vocals of Chicago's rhythm'n'blues and the guitar of hyper-syncopated blues-rock a` la Free. Little Bird is little more than a loud and insistent blues riff a` la Slim Harpo. Best is perhaps I'm Bound to Pack It Up, a quintessential Delta blues imitation sung the way the British bands used to in the early 1960s. Of course, all this referencing the past is a double-edged sword: Let's Build a Home evokes the style of the
Animals, but the comparison only shows how inferior the White Stripes are. And compare the playful Why Can't You Be Nicer to Me with the Tremeloes' Here Comes My Baby (1967).
Jack White's guitar is not innovative, inventive or acrobatic. It is merely referential. His vocals are even less original. Royal Trux played the same revival music a decade before, but with a lot more passion and competence.

White Blood Cells (Sympathy, 2001) is a mixed bag. On one hand, the band is still capable of an amazing synthesis of roots-rock and hard-rock (Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground), sometimes augmented with punk fury (Fell in Love with a Girl), and sometimes tempered with agonizing bluesy tones (I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman). Alas, the two minutes of non-sequitur stoner-metal Aluminum are the exception, not the rule. On the other hand, the catchy and martial country-rock rigmarole of Hotel Yorba, the power ballads I Can't Wait (the album's melodic zenith) and The Same Boy You've Always Known, as well as the simple lullaby of We're Going To Be Friends signal a new, more conventional direction.
Both sides are performed with the kind of "detached enthusiasm" that pervades the revisionists of the year 2000. Too much filler prevents the album from being the milestone that most critics deemed it to be. Nonetheless, the White Stripes became overnight superstars.

Surprisingly, the band did not turn radio-friendly in response to the hype. Elephant (V2, 2003) continues their fusion of Led Zeppelin and John Spencer Blues Explosion with both driving punk-ish numbers (the feverish, swirling Black Math, the demonic Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine, Hypnotize, the Stooges-ian Little Acorns) and brooding visceral numbers (especially Seven Nation Army, The Hardest Button To Button). The leader opens his heart in the seven-minute agonizing rhythm'n'blues meditation, Ball and Biscuit, a veritable tribute to black Chicago circa 1950.
On the soft side of things, the White Stripes continue to develop the form of the power ballad into something else, as proven by the two top laments, the tender I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself and the solemn I Want To Be The Boy. You've Got Her In Your Pocket is the barenaked lullaby du jour, The Air Near My Fingers boasts the catchiest melodic progression, And Meg White sings the low-key anguished In The Cold Cold Night. It's True That We Love One Another seems to make fun of Ray Charles' Hit The Road Jack and Sonny & Cher's I Got You Babe.
They occasionally repeat themselves (There's No Home for You Here is reminiscent of Dead Leaves) and frequently quote other people's music but overall their sound is still getting more personal and growing up.

The White Stripes entered their adult stage with Get Behind Me Satan (V2, 2005), that, unlike its predecessor, does not repeat White Stripes cliches but rather expands them into many directions, employing more piano and emphasizing the folk elements over the blues ones. This album thrives in the fuzzy territory where eclectic and derivative become one. It feels, overall, more more melancholy and content than the previous ones, as if juvenile anger were slowly being replaced by middle-age's resignation. The classic White Stripes sound is perhaps best preserved in The Nurse and the noir vignette Take Take Take. The energetic Blue Orchid, the convoluted bluesy Red Rain, the majestic Forever For Her, the exuberant alt-bluegrass Little Ghost, and the bizarre disco-punk of My Doorbell and The Denial Twist use the same building blocks to create a new kind of architecture.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudio Lancia)

Se il "post-rock" è stata la chiave per capire gli anni ‘90, forse il "pre-rock" sarà la chiave per capire il 2000. I White Stripes sono un duo di Detroit formato da Jack White e sua moglie Meg White, rispettivamente chitarra e batteria. Alcuni singoli introdussero il loro blues-rock fuori moda: Let's Shake Hands (Italy, 1997), Lafayette Blues, The Big Three Killed My Baby (Sympathy For The Record Industry).

White Stripes (Sympathy, 1999), registrato nel rustico di casa, fu un modesto sforzo che riaccese le visioni di Jon Spencer interpretando Jimi Hendrix e Led Zeppelin (The Big Three Killed My Baby, Sugar Never Tasted So Good, Jimmy the Exploder). Facendo leva su chitarre atonali e ritmi trash, i White Stripes raggiunsero un senso di intensità ed urgenza che rappresenta davvero l’anima del blues. I White Stripes stanno a Jimi Hendrix come i Royal Trux stanno ai Rolling Stones: riassumono il suono di un’epoca.

De Stijl (Sympathy, 2000), probabilmente il loro disco più efficace, offre abbondanti estratti sonici di blues senza suonare come vero blues (You're Pretty Good Looking, which could be from early Kinks, Let's Build a Home, Hello Operator, I'm Bound to Pack It Up, Apple Blossom).

White Blood Cells (Sympathy, 2001) è altalenante. Da un lato la band risulta ancora in grado di realizzare sorprendenti sintesi di roots-rock e hard-rock (Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, Fell in Love with a Girl, I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman, I Can't Wait). D’altro canto la ballata The Same Boy You've Always Known, l’orecchiabile e marziale country-rock Hotel Yorba ed il pop-folk-rock Fell in Love with a Girl segnano una nuova e più convenzionale direzione. Entrambi gli aspetti vengono praticati attraverso una sorta di "entusiasmo distaccato" che pervade i revisionisti dell’anno 2000.E’ un disco che ha troppo il sapore di riempitivo per essere considerato una pietra miliare come molti critici hanno sentenziato. Tuttavia i White Stripes divennero delle superstars da un giorno all’altro.

Sorprendentemente, a seguito del grosso lancio pubblicitario di cui ha beneficiato, la band non ha virato verso sonorità radiofoniche. Elephant (V2, 2003) prosegue nell’intento di fondere Led Zeppelin e John Spencer Blues Explosion con Seven Nation Army, Black Math, The Hardest Button To Button, Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine, In The Cold Cold Night, ma mostra la vera anima del leader con il rhythm'n'blues di sette minuti, Ball and Biscuit, che sembra un tributo alla Chicago degli anni ‘50.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Stefano Bedetti)

I White Stripes sono arrivati alla loro fase matura con Get Behind Me Satan (V2, 2005), che, a differenza del suo predecessore, non ripete i loro cliches ma semmai li estende in molte direzioni. L’album trae vigore sul terreno indistinto nel quale l’eclettico e il derivato diventano una cosa sola. Sembra, dopo tutto, che ci sia piu’ malinconia e contentezza rispetto agli album precedenti, come se la rabbia giovanile fosse stata lentamente rimpiazzata dalla rassegnazione tipica della mezza eta’. Il sound classico dei White Stripes viene forse preservato al meglio in The Nurse e nel quadretto noir di Take Take Take. L’energica Blue Orchid, il blues avvolgente di Red Rain, la maestosa Forever For Her, le esuberanti distese malinconiche di Little Ghost, e il bizzarro disco-punk di My Doorbell e The Denial Twist utilizzano le stesse impalcature sonore per creare un nuovo tipo di architettura musicale.

The Raconteurs are a side project by Jack White (now relocated to Nashville) and singer songwriter Brendan Benson plus bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler. Their debut album, Broken Boy Soldiers (Third Man, 2006), ran the gamut from power-pop ditties (Steady As She Goes) to bluesy hard-rock (Broken Boy Soldiers and especially Blue Veins, the standout).

Despite living in two cities thousands of kms apart (she in L.A., he in Nashville), the White Stripes resumed their journey with Icky Thump (2007), an album in the old vein (unlike Get Behind Me Satan). The duo unleashed Rag & Bone, a demented Slim Harpo-like barrelhouse shuffle and one of their career's highlights in that genre, the visceral gospel-ish I'm Slowly Turning Into You, Little Cream Soda, that couples panzer-metal rhythm and burning guitar, Icky Thump, that careens ahead with stuttering blues-rock guitar but also the pomp of progressive-rock, Prickly Thorn, a vehement take on folk music, and Catch Hell Blues, boosted by a hell of a detuned guitar squall followed by the most primal of hard-rock riffs, abandoning any pretense of intellectual depth and resigning themselves to be honest revivalists of Sixties garage-rock, and nothing more than that. Monochromatic but at least good at being it.
Jack White's alter-ego Raconteurs helped pen the catchiest and prettiest songs (as in "simplicity pays off"): the somewhat martial You Don't Know What Love Is (ironically, also the album's most memorable song), the oddly Beatles-ian Effect and Cause and the power-ballad A Martyr For My Love For You.
However, the White Stripes still have a knack for embarrassing themselves in the most unlikely manners. Here they do it with a novelty that would make even Queen blush (a Spanish-tinged Conquest that would be more appropriate for a corrida), with the Led Zeppelin-ian bursts of riff in 300 MPH, with the pointless emphasis of Bone Broke.

Jack White's project Raconteurs packed another set of retro-songs on Consolers Of The Lonely (Warner Bros, 2008), shabby deconstructions of stereotypes of acid rock, blues-rock, power-pop, etc, with the usual Led Zeppelin fixation (Salute Your Solution). But perhaps the best combination of nostalgic music and contemporary topics is to be found in the least typical number, the melodrama Carolina Drama.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Cristina

I Raconteurs sono un side project di Jack White (ora traferitisi a Nashville) e del cantante e autore dei testi Brendan Benson, più il bassista Jack Lawrence e il batterista Patrick Keeler. Il loro album di debutto, Broken Boy Soldiers (Third Man, 2006) spaziava da canzoncine power pop a un hard rock che sapeva di blues (Broken Boy Soldiers, Blue Veins).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D’Onofrio)

Pur vivendo in due città lontanissime tra loro (lui a Nashville, lei a Los Angeles), i White Stripes riprendono il viaggio con Icky Thump (2007), un album che li riconduce all’umore degli esordi (a differenza di Get Behind Me Satan). Il duo sguinzaglia canzoni abbandonando qualsiasi traccia di spessore intellettuale e rassegnandosi all’idea di essere soltanto onesti revival-isti del garage rock anni 60: basta ascoltare Rag & Bone, un demente rimpasto "barrelhouse" alla Slim Harpo e uno dei loro numeri più riusciti nel genere; il viscerale quasi-gospel I’m Slowly Turning Into You; Little Cream Soda, che unisce una ritmica panzer-metal ad una bruciante chitarra; Icky Thump, che va avanti sbandando fra i singhiozzi della chitarra blues e la spinta del progressive-rock; Prickly Thorn, una sfrenata interpretazione della musica folk, e Catch Hell Blues, spinta dall’inferno di un turbine di chitarra scordata e da un riff hard-rock dei più primordiali. Monocromatici, ma almeno bravi nel loro genere. L’alter-ego di Jack White (Raconteurs) ha contribuito a scrivere le canzoni più orecchiabili e carine: l’alquanto marziale You Don’t Know What Love Is (ironicamente il pezzo più memorabile dell’album), l’insolitamente Beatles-iana Effect and Cause e la power-ballad A Martyr For My Love For You.

Comunque i White Stripe possiedono ancora la capacità di rendersi ridicoli nei modi più strani. Su questo disco lo fanno con un’originalità che farebbe vergognare persino i Queen (la spagnoleggiante Conquest, più appropriata per una corrida), con l’esplosione di riff Led Zeppelin-iana di 300 MPH, infine con l’inutile enfasi di Bone Broke.

Con Consolers Of The Lonely (Warner Bros, 2008) i Raconteurs di Jack White sfornano un nuova collezione di canzoni dal gusto retro, misere decostruzioni degli stereotipi dell’acid-rock, del blues-rock, del power pop, ecc, con la solita "fissa" per i Led Zeppelin (Salute Your Solution). Probabilmente la migliore combinazione di nostalgia (musicale) e contemporaneità (tematica) viene fuori dal pezzo più insolito, il melodramma Carolina Drama.

Jack White also formed Dead Weather, a supergroup fronted by Alison Mosshart of the Kills that released Horehound (Third Man, 2009), with Hang You From the Heavens and the explosive rap-reggae-metal anthem of I Cut Like a Buffalo (an organ-led hybrid of Tackhead, Cream and Free), and Sea Of Cowards (Third Man, 2010), highlighted by the gruesome booming riff of Blue Blood Blues, the vulgar rigmarole of Hustle and Cuss, and the unbalanced driving blues-metal of Die by the Drop.

Jack White's solo Blunderbuss (Third Man, 2012), for which he employed not Meg White but other female musicians (drummer Carla Azar of Autolux and guitarist Olivia Deen), presented an old-fashioned rocker that had blissfully missed the punk revolution and the new wave and had been catapulted straight into the 21st century from the happy Sixties. Highlights include the virulent syncopated Freedom at 21, the catchy barrelhouse blues-rock Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy with rollicking piano, the gospel-ish Love Interruption, the Led Zeppelin-ian singalong of Missing Pieces and granitic rap-metal of Sixteen Saltines (with an earth-shaking riff). There is little here (riff, hook, rhythm, pause, shout) that hasn't be heard before (dozens of times) in the annals of rock music. It is difficult not to feel that this is just a streamlined version of White Stripes.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Matteo Nicoli)

Jack White fondò anche i Dead Weather, un supergruppo capitanato da Alison Mosshart dei Kills, i quali debuttarono con Horehound (Third Man, 2009), con Hang You From the Heavens e l'esplosivo inno rap-reggae-metal I Cut Like a Buffalo (una direzione d'organo a metà tra i Tackhead, i Cream e i Free); e Sea Of Cowards (Third Man, 2010), sul quale spicca l'esplosivo e spaventoso riff di Blue Blood Blues, il volgare sproloquio di Hustle and Cuss, e lo sbilanciato blues metal di Die by the Drop.

L'album solista Blunderbuss (Third Man, 2012), per il quale Jack White non impiega Meg White, ma altre musiciste (la batterista Carla Azar degli Autolux e la chitarrista Olivia Deen), presenta un rock vecchio stile, che ha deliziosamente trascurato la rivoluzione punk e la New Age, giungendo al ventunesimo secolo direttamente dagli anni '60. I pezzi migliori includono il virulento e sincopato Freedom at 21, l'orecchiabile barrellhouse blues-rock dal piano scatenato Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy, il gospel Love Interruption, Missing Pieces (con la parte vocale ispirata ai Led Zeppelin), ed il rap-metal granitico di Sixteen Saltines (con un riff clamoroso). C'è poco qui (riff, hook, ritmi, pause, grida) che non si fosse già sentito (dozzine di volte) negli annali del rock. È difficile non percepire come questo non sia altro che una versione semplificata degli White Stripes.

Jack White continued his solo career with Lazaretto (2014), that contains the gritty blues-rock instrumental High Ball Stepper and the catchy Lazaretto. Four year later, Boarding House Reach (2018) was an insane hodgepodge of electronic noise, folk (Ezmerelda Steals the Show, Get in the Mind Shaft), garage-rock, jazz, funk, hip-hop (Humoresque), trip-hop, country (What's Done Is Done) and blues (Over and Over and Over, Why Walk a Dog?), all played as if in a psychedelic trance. Highlights are the dissonant electronic blues-rock of Respect Commander, the psychotic, tribal, funk-jazz jam Corporation, the funk-punk orgy of Hypermisophoniac and the fiery gospel-ish Connected by Love. Another four years and White dished out the wild, loud and fast Fear of the Dawn (2022), that contains the abrasive and bombastic, but also catchy, blues-rock ditty Taking Me Back, the pounding and anthemic, Stooges-esque, Fear of the Dawn, the shrapnel funk-rock of The White Raven, the cute funky novelty Hi-De-Ho, a collaboration with rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, the surrealistic and danceable vignette of Into the Twilight, the furious rap-metal of What's the Trick?, the rockabilly That Was Then This is Now, all derailed by delirious sound effects. Not quite as creative and consistent as Boarding House Reach, but still a worthy successor. Its folk-ish, acoustic, intimate companion Entering Heaven Alive (2022) is a very minor album, despite the lyrical Love Is Selfish and the Richard Thompson-esque A Madman From Manhattan.

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