Friday, 4 February 2011

Like London buses and Noah's ark.

Wednesday was a rough day. Two important parts of my life came to a whimpering, and regretfully expected conclusion. Gary Neville - Mr Manchester United - retired with immediate effect. It frightens me to my core that just Scholes and Giggs remain from the glorious core of my football heroes as a youth. On a musical level Wednesday saw the official announcement of the end of the White Stripes. It has been pretty obvious as Jack White dedicates more time to The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs that his collaboration with hugely under-rated percussionist Meg would be put to bed. I admit to finding it a little odd that White decided to announce a split rather than simply leave The White Stripes option on the back burner for a possible future renaissance. It would appear though that he has become fed up with Stripes related questions when promoting his current projects and perhaps wanted to offer fans some closure. It is arguable that the Stripes persona had worn tired as recent albums though impressive have lacked the sparkle that Raconteurs and Dead Weather have offered. White's songwriting partnership with Benson in particular offers a truly exciting combination of talents that has already given two quite magnificent albums for a so-called 'side-project.' The cynic in me might also suggest that the 'unreleased material' he pledged to release as a thank you to fans will now generate much more publicity and consequent sales as a result. I tend not to think of Jack White as especially financially motivated - the extra cash gained from a Bond theme and Coke commercial will surely ensure he has enough to fulfill his penchant for fancy dress and red trousers for the foreseeable future (atleast until the Stripes reform for Glastonbury 2025 anyway.) If he really falls on hard times he can go back to teaching musical instruments to cartoon characters.

So as is my laboured tradition I present my five must have White Stripes tracks. They really are one of my favourite bands of all time; as long term followers will know from previous blogs eulogising over their Glastonbury set of 2005. Thankfully everything White does seems to appeal to me so I can enjoy his future output hopefully without pining too much for the red and white days of old. I will steer clear of songs I have previously featured in the blog which may explain some of the choices!

Best Led Zep style wig out
Jack has always managed to sneak at least one blatant homage to the more indulgent moments of 1970s rock. It seems that as the Stripes career these moments have become a resident feature of each album. Noteworthy moments include Hello Operator from Der Stijl and Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn from Icky Thump. It is easy to pick out the crowning glory though. Page and Plant themselves would've been proud of the immense seven minute plus opus from Elephant. If you can listen to this without accompanying it with closed eyes, absurd lunges and air guitar soloing I have no time for you.

My, my, what a sweet heart you have!
In a world of ego driven, pompous showman playing the hardman Jack White is a bit of a no mark. Back in the day there was that scuffle with the frontman of some wretched Strokes wannabe band who's name escapes me but on the whole he has either failed to or shown no interest in being a rock star in the stereotypical sense. In fact, in the same way as a wig out per album is a given, so is an utterly charming, simple ode which exposes the sweet natured boy from Detroit. Fell in love with a girl is a tempting choice, as are I want to the Boy to warm your mother's heart and I'm Lonely (but I aint that lonely yet). However although a tad predictable perhaps, I can't look past this gem which the Moldy Peaches have spent their entire career trying to recreate.

An added bonus here is an awesome US school choir giving it a go; awesome not for the sound as much as one stand-out mullet - see if you can spot it!

The Bat Shit mental award
There really is never a dull moment with Jack White. He managed to pull out of the bag some of the most unhinged and ridiculous songs which somehow managed to work. I could make a case for Little Acorns and Little Ghost amongst others for this choice but ever since I first heard this song it has stood out as brilliant yet utterly crackers. The video is also absolutely glorious too.

Music as Art
I've never been a great lover of music videos. I think it stems from not having grown up with satellite tvGondry has proved fruitful from their early years and it would not be understated to consider the French director as one of the driving forces behind the band's success. My personal favourite is Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground. What I love about the video is how a simple idea of homecoming to a trashed house is expanded into something so much more.

Masters of Interpretation
Many artists consider covers to be old hat and unimaginative. In many cases this is the case - brilliant covers are few and far between and two often today a switch of gender on a vocal is considered revolutionary. One thing the White Stripes could never be accused of is taking the easy option with their covers and in many ways they have set the benchmark. The two standouts are well known and in a break from tradition I'm going to link to both of them. In both instances White's vocal drives to the heart of the emotion of the song and fully interprets the original sentiment with remarkable ease.

Fantastic band who'll be sadly missed, maybe Meg can finally fulfill her dream of becoming a chef?

I'd love to know your favourite White Stripes moments so please leave a comment.

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