The White Stripes

Record Review

Phases and Stages

The White Stripes

White Blood Cells

(Sympathy for the Record Industry) One of my hobbies is hitting the magazine racks for a little cover-surfing, and on one recent expedition, I came across this gem: "The White Stripes: Is Detroit the new Seattle?" Thus, rock's flavor of the month is once again one of the oldest American flavors of all: those good old subterranean homesick blues. Specifically, it's guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg, a pasty pair of purported siblings (like Quasi, they're a divorced couple), who quite frankly, could do with a little grooming. While some might speculate that their disheveled appearance is a natural byproduct of their chosen milieu, sonically, the Stripes are surprisingly well-scrubbed. Wisely, Jack takes it easy on all the scuzz and skronk, choosing instead open-ended riffs à la Jimmy Page -- he even howls like Robert Plant once or twice -- and chiming arpeggios modeled after Village Green-era Kinks. In fact, the whole album suggests White's been studying the Rushmore soundtrack rather intently, maybe most of all on "I'm Finding It Hard to Be a Gentleman" and "The Same Boy You've Always Known," both ominously echoing the Who's "The Seeker." (Listen closely for nods to Neil Young and Railroad Jerk.) Meanwhile, Meg seems equally at home bashing through cymbal-fests like "Offend in Every Way" and "Expecting," or simply marking time on her snare in "The Union Forever." While a few songs aren't quite as fleshed out as others, nearly every selection on White Blood Cells provides the sort of bluesy good-time kicks otherwise unavailable in today's pop marketplace. No wonder The New York Times, Spin, and N.M.E. are tripping over their superlatives. Everything old is new again. (White Stripes play Emo's Saturday, Sept. 15.)

*** .5

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