11:44 AM GMT 21/05/2013
You will probably remember the first time you heard the White Stripes. For me, it was a colleague playing me Jumble Jumble off Y2K's just-released De Stijl album (no, I wasn't there at the beginning - am I forgiven?). The gnarly, sludgy psycho-riff and unconstrained yelpvox of Jack White III shocked me out of the late-'90s and into a new century. Retro-savvy, yes - but old and smelly, no; was this how pop music would roll in the 2000s? I hoped so.
For the next eleven years The White Stripes brought megawatt thrills to gig-goers and record fans alike. Their releases were water-cooler rock happenings and their shows were always seat-of-the-pants affairs. Sometimes White seemed to revel in lacunae of indulgent self-sabotage only to snatch a late winner with a feat of astonishing axemanship. Notably, their set at 2005's Glastonbury Festival was like watching some visceral tragic-comedy unfold, as three versions of Passive Manipulation (the rickety Meg song on their most problematic album: Get Behind Me Satan) were assayed before a blistering Seven Nation Army saved their bacon. Sometimes you felt for Meg: obliged to keep a beat behind this will o' the wisp.
Adventurous musicianship allied with elaborate mythmaking and extravagant showmanship: The White Stripes were an all-new phenomenon, and a grenade duct-taped in the maw of seen-it-all bores. Their albums became increasingly mind-boggling exercises in rulebook-shredding, even as the blues remained their bedrock. Stripes highlights are too manifold to list in full, but I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
1. Seven Nation Army
Award-winning video treatment, by Alex Courtes and Martin Fougerol, of the Elephant album's signature track. The nu-Led Zep, proto-metal riff - inspired by Bruckner's 5th Symphony - proved the highwater-mark of the duo's commercial phase. People stopped criticising Meg's drumming after this.
2. Death Letter (live, from Under Blackpool Lights)
Son House blues epic eviscerated in 2004's astonishing live DVD. White underlines his reputation as the 21st Century Jeff Beck.
3. Icky Thump
Bonkers rock mini-symphony, Tijuana-style. Unsettling cameo by Meg as one-eyed hooker. All the joie de vivre and instinctive experimentalism that encapsulates The White Stripes at their best.
4. You're Pretty Good Lookin' (For A Girl)
Indulge me, as I over-represent my favourite WS album De Stijl (see details of epiphany, above). Here, Jack adds early-Kinks swing to his garage-blues-dominated palette, plus appealingly weird lyrics: "...but your back is so broken")
5. Black Jack Davy
Impromptu town square shakedown from last year's Under Great White Northern Lights DVD. All the spontaneity, and encyclopaedic folk music knowledge/empathy, we'd come to know and love.
6. Fell In Love With A Girl/Little Room
The song that introduced them to a mainstream audience, performed with amphetamine intensity on the Letterman show. "You're gonna need a bigger room" suddenly sounded like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
7. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
White somehow plays guitar and twirls cane simultaneously, live on VH1, with great trashy groove from Meg. The silent movie cad look was hot that year.
8. Love Sick
Modelling Edward Scissorhands hair, Jack delivers live cover version of Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind classic. So sceptical of womankind and obsessed with faithlessness and betrayal in general, it could easily be a White original.
9. Blue Orchid
Get Behind Me Satan's "route one" moment, brilliantly bashed out for From The Basement, Nigel Godrich's short-lived "vodcast" series.
10. Jumble Jumble
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 2:28 PM GMT 04/02/2011