The White Stripes – The White Stripes (1999)
Back in 2002, the whole world suddenly discovered Detroit-based duo The White Stripes, after the release of “White Blood Cells” and they quickly became the new hot band of the year. Of course, being part of the world (even though I try hard not to be), I also discovered them at the same time and they quickly became one of my favourite new bands at the time and, once I’d played “White Blood Cells” to death, I excitedly bought their previous two albums. When I first played this, their self-titled début album, I was almost put off by its raw, brash, uncompromising nature. In fact, I think the first time I played it, I ended up with a bit of a headache afterwards and so it got filed away and seldom played after that, whilst other White Stripes albums continued to grace my CD player regularly. In fact, today, when I saw that this was the next album to be listened to, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.
It was a huge, pleasant surprise to find that I thoroughly enjoyed playing it today and found it to be so much better than I remembered it to be. I’ll be completely honest; I haven’t listened to this album for around ten years and was expecting to be writing something vaguely negative about it right now, but I actually think it’s a rather awesome album and wonder why I didn’t realise it first time around. Yes, it’s rough around the edges and Jack and Meg White went on to write and release better material, but the unpolished talent of the duo (especially Jack) is blatantly obvious. Their sound of vocals, guitar and drums (and very little else – I think there may be a bell on one track) makes for a refreshingly simple and honest sound. The album was dedicated to Son House, a Delta blues musician, so their influences and intentions were laid down for all to see.
My favourite tracks on their eponymous début include the relentless “Stop Breaking Down”, the emotive “Wasting My Time” and the relatively laid back (for this album) “Do”. “Screwdriver” boasts a fantastic riff and it also gets a tiny bit mental at the end, which is excellent, . I also particularly enjoyed the Dylan cover, “One More Cup Of Coffee” and the old jazz/blues standard “St James Infirmary Blues” is quite decent as well, although I may lose slight cool points by saying that Hugh Laurie did a much better version recently. The rest of the album is also pretty good, filled with strong riffs, loud, pounding drums and White’s half-strangled, yelping vocals. The only song that still annoys me is “Astro”, but I can still get through it without feeling the need to skip. As I said before, the best was yet to come from Jack and Meg, but “The White Stripes” is an altogether strong start to Jack’s remarkable musical career and is an exciting piece of work that stands on its own merits, regardless of the fact that it gave me a headache a decade ago.