Friday, September 25, 2009

The Magical Mystical White (and red and black) Stripes

I begin to write this post in a state halfway between ass-whooping excitement and cowardly doubt. I cannot adequately put into words the power the Detroit band The White Stripes has over me.

ently (in the past year) succumbed to The White Stripes. Their reputation of greatness preceded them, but I never delved into their discography out of fear of obsession. Thankfully, I bucked that fear and I am now a slave to the Stripes awesomeness.

For those of you who don't know about the White Stripes, I'll try to make this brief: This garage rock duo (Jack and Meg White) came onto the major music scene in 1999 and have left critics and fans dazzled by their punk/blues/county/classic rock sound and minimalistic DIY sensibility. Front man Jack is hailed as a savior of the soul of rock music and is somewhat of a guitar icon for my generation. And that's just the beginning. Needless to say, things would suck without this band.

They are perhaps MORE recognizable by their appearance than the music they play. I bet even my mom would be able to pick them out of a crowd. Since their major label debut, Jack and Meg's minimalism seemed to apply to their fashion sense as well, as they only wear clothes in black, white or red colors. I might be wrong, but I don't think I've even seen a video or photo of these two, as the Stripes, in any other colors.

Minimalism, to me, is an artistic limit set upon a creator (whether it be design, music, film, or whateve
r) that in turn sparks creativity. Do not doubt that the Stripes three-color fancy is a coincidence. The Dutch artistic movement known as "De Stijl" (1917-1931) expresses a Utopian harmony that draws upon abstract reductions of form and color, usually primary colors. The White Stripes pay literal homage to this movement with their second studio album, 2000's De Stijl.

Throughout their six album discography, the White Stripes have played within their boundaries of sound and style. After the initial garage rock phase, tones of blues and country began to emerge more prominently on their tracks and on their bodies. Their album covers alone show their immensely dramatic style, like 2003's Elephant (on the left). Here they have adopted the cowboy Western look of the 1960s and 70s.

2005's Get Behind Me Satan (below) departs into another direction entirely. Musically, we hear Latin piano,kettle drums, lots of acoustic guitar, soulful ly
rics and singing from Jack and some straight up bluegrass country. Jack and Meg began to dress in a way that incorporated notes of Southern Gothic, Victorian and Latin styles.

The Stripes came back to the rodeo on the cover of 2007's Icky Thump. They are seen in beade
d and bedazzled matching suits that conjure classic country costume and late Elvis.
The Latin style also reemerges here, which I discoverd when I picked up the EP Conquista. The CD features two versions of their single "Conquest" from Icky Thump: one in which Jack sings the song in Spanish, and the other a mariachi interpretation.

Phew. I am exhausted. And yet I've just barely scratched the surface of the Stripes creativity and purpose in the art world. They are true innovators of sound and style, of art and fashion, of expression and of blistering rock and roll attitude. If I haven't convinced you yet, take a peek at their most famous and critically acclaimed music video, 2001's "Fell in Love With a Girl" from their album White Blood Cells. After that, watch the rest of their videos. Then go out to the record store and buy their albums. It will please the rock gods.

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