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The White Stripes

The White Stripes

1999

The White Stripes debut album is a decidedly raw affair.  It's firmly entrenched in the blues (as evidenced by the choice of covers here), but it's got a more tossed-off, somewhat more menacing flair to it compared to what was to come from the band.  It's got more attitude than their later recordings, which gives the music here a bit more of an edge.  There's less lyrically depth here, as Jack White wasn't yet writing the type of emotionally sensitive ballads that would come to characterize some of the band's best songs.  That said, even though this isn't as good as what would come from the band, it's still a good album, especially for fans of stripped-down and raw electric blues delivered with a somewhat brash garage-rock edge/flair.

8.3

De Stijl

The White Stripes

2000

Like a lot of people, I did not discover "De Stijl" when the album was originally released back in the year 2000.  That said, it is one of my personal favorite White Stripes album, mainly because of Jack White's infectiously saucy guitar playing.  Everyone knows Mr. White is a talented guitar player (and arguably a better songwriter) but his axe-work throughout most of De Stijl really steals the show here.  It's raw and straight-up dirty in spots (check out his shit-hot cover of "Death Letter" for example).  Jack White is not a flashy guitar player, and that's not what makes him great.  The man knows how to channel the raw, stripped-down sound and feeling of the blues through his instrument.  His style is stripped down, and Meg White's minimalist drumming actually compliments his style perfectly.  In terms of jamming, The White Stripes never sounded better than they did on De Stijl for my money.  And of course there are a fair share of Jack White's patented "sweet" sounding songs to help balance out the saucier tracks.  Overall this is a very listenable album, which good variety.  It also sounds like the most organic, natural White Stripes album in their entire catalog.  And that makes sense considering this album was recorded a few years before they became famous, which really adds to it's authenticity.  They really click on all their proverbial "stripped-down-blues" cylinders here, and for my money, this just might be their best album.

9.0

White Blood Cells

A male and female stand are pestered by black silhouettes in front of a brick wall on what appears to be snowy ground. A black border outlines the artwork. Dominant colors are red, black, and white.

The White Stripes

2001

This was the album that really sold me on The White Stripes.  I was less than enthusiastic about the whole garage-rock rival thing, and the seemingly countless number of annoying "The bands" (band-names starting with "The") popping up at the time, along with their associated spineless sound and horrible haircuts, etc.  I wanted rock music to evolve, to break new ground, not to retread as part of some passing fad.  But The White Stripes, as history has proven, were the real deal.  Jack White was not only a phenomenal guitar player, channeling the raw, stripped-down sound of the blues into his music, but he also was one hell of a songwriter.  His song writing is what really steals the show on White Blood Cells.  His genuine sensitivity in these songs is palpable, and I could relate to a lot of them.  He really explores the dichotomy of being in love very well here, and I could relate to his feelings and style.  This is a sweet album for the most part ("Hotel Yorba" & "I Can Tell We Are Gonna Be Friends"), but there's also a lot of bitterness as well ("Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman" & "The Union Forever"), hence the dichotomy of love.  This album reminds me of the lonely and yearning feeling of wanting to be in love back in 2004, as well as the fulfillment when it actually happened for me the following year.  White Blood Cells will always remind me of that time, place, and the associated emotions of it all.

9.0

Elephant

The White Stripes

2003

For better or worse, this is The White Stripes most popular album, and that's largely due to the epic opening tune "Seven Nation Army".  And although that song was overplayed into oblivion, it's hard to deny it's awesomeness.  For me though, it's the following track "Black Math" that really steals the show, with it's incredibly wicked down-tempo riff that kicks-in around mid-song.  There are also lots of other very good/high quality tunes to be found here.  Elephant is interesting in that it contains some of TWS's "heaviest" songs, and they're all quite satisfying to boot.  Only slight gripe here is with the acoustic songs, most of which are a bit too subdued and lack the emotional depth that gave White Blood Cells such an endearing quality.  They're less affecting basically.  Elephant is kind of a peaks and valleys type of listening experience, and while the peaks are undeniably awesome, there are a few too many valleys which occasionally undercut the momentum and flow of the album.  Overall, a very good album, and a classic in most people's book.

8.9

Get Behind Me Satan

The White Stripes

2005

I'm pretty sure everyone agrees this is TWS's worst album, or should I say, least good album?  Because it's not bad, it really isn't, but it is a bit subdued and underwhelming compared to what came before and after it.  Definitely some good/catchy songs, and I also appreciate the subtle weirdness of the album.  This was the 1st album they made after becoming very famous, so it's probably just a reflection of that.  Again, not bad, but, not in the same league as their other albums...worth a listen now and then.

8.0

Icky Thump

The White Stripes

2007

Admittedly, I was a little late to The White Stripes party, but by the time Icky Thump was released, I was a bonified fan (largely through discovering their pre-Elephant albums).  I was initially pretty impressed with this album, considering it to be one of their best, and while I still think it's very good, I have a hard time ranking it above Elephant, much less De Stijl or WBC for that matter.  Icky Thump has the most in common with Elephant, as it sounds like a big and loud garage-rock record, and while it does rock pretty hard at times, it doesn't really have as many "hits" or high moments as Elephant.  That said, from start to finish, it is a more consistently satisfying listening experience, with more twists and turns to keep the listener fully engaged throughout.  Nothing too subdued or underwhelming here, it's all pretty direct and hard hitting, with a few more quirks to boot.  A definite improvement from GBMS, back up to Elephant-level goodness, but falls just short of greatness.  A very good swan song from a great band nonetheless.

8.6

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