This week on That Dandy Classic Music Hour we welcome back a previous guest, Jeff Popp who was on our Pearl Jam ‘No Code’ episode, to talk about fellow Detroiters who’ve relocated to Middle Tennessee, Jack White and his legendary duo, the White Stripes and their commercial breakthrough ‘White Blood Cells’.
With his ex-wife, Meg White, the Stripes used a huge sound to make blues-based garage rock with a punk flair for a new generation of rock fans at the turn of the millenium. Getting their start in the cannibalistic rock scene in metro Detroit, the pair staked out their claim to a national audience by crafting an idiosyncratic blend of simple and straightforward rock songs played in a timeless style with an indie sensibility few could approach. Not only that, they fashioned a clean and relatable look (like a candy cane) that older and younger rock fans alike could rally behind.
But all of that would’ve fallen flat or been a fad if Jack and Meg didn’t deliver the songs to back it up. On this, their third album, and last on an indie label, they hit upon the balance of good-sounding and not overly esoteric, songs that rocked the house and also showcased Jack’s unique vocal approach. Part Robert Plant, Ray Davies and God-knows-what-else, he gave the tracks the vocal power they needed to win the day.
Starting with the salvo of ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ the band comes out with a clear statement of intent that this is a band that is to be reckoned with. Next we get the rollicking stomp known as ‘Hotel Yorba’ (one disgusting place in real life) and Jack White’s warped sense of humor. Moving along we arrive at the undeniable groove of ‘I’m Finding It Hard To Be a Gentleman’ before giving way to the surf-y and inspired new millenium classicism of the caffeinated ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ and it’s immediate awesomeness that made millions know who the Stripes were and made Jack and Meg household names for the first time.
Not only that but we get the slack-jawed wonder of ‘The Union Forever’ and it’s creepy organ grind. Dan, Randy and Jeff are divided on the greatness of ‘Offend In Every Way’ with yet another hummable riff. Throughout we discuss the Detroit music scene and the garage rock scene in general in 2001 and 2002 when this album was gaining acclaim. Amongst other threads we get into whether or not Jack White was a drama student, how good were the Racounteurs, and our experiences watching the band live (as an added bonus one of us was there when Jack decked Jason Strollermeister from the Von Bondies back in the day as well). Also one of us contends this album may even be, gasp, overrated. Or maybe that’s just click bait ;).