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Detroit, USA. City of cars manufacturing plants, and musical legends. While not exactly ‘legends’ yet, the rock and roll duo of Jack and Meg White formed here on Bastille Day, 1997. 5 albums, millions of records sold, and the obsession with peppermints (red and white) the White Stripes are the best garage rock act, and one of the best bands in the entire rock genre for the last decade.
White Blood Cells
is the White Stripes 3rd album, and when it was released in 2001 is what brought them out into the shiny bright lights of mainstream success. With singles and videos clips for songs like Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, Hotel Yorba and Fell In Love With A Girl, beautiful tracks like Now Mary and We’re Going To Be Friends, and the plain different Aluminium and Little Room, this is one of my favourite albums.
The White Stripes are:
- Jack White (guitar, vocals, piano)
- Meg White (drums, backing vocals)
*** Most people should know by now that Jack and Meg are not brother and sister
but were married at one stage (Jack took Meg’s last name). ***
Track 1 – Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground
The album is introduced with a few drum stick knocks, a little bit of feedback, and then straight into a little dirty riff. Soon it melds into some nice guitar work, gentle and calming with Meg tapping away on the drums in the background. The song lacks a real chorus, but instead rips into a heavier, dirty segment of music before sliding back into the verse. Jack sings “If you can hear a piano fall you can hear me coming down the hall" in an almost quivering voice which makes him seem vulnerable, showing his emotion in his singing. Next comes a nice bridge with louder guitars and the simple bass beat from Meg’s feet. The song ends on a slow strum and this is just the perfect album opener, just as Seven Nation Army is on Elephant
Track 2 – Hotel Yorba
Country blues swagger and a bobby tempo throw you to the time and place where Hotel Yorba exists. A dodgy old hotel where Jack and his lady(ies) can hang out in peace, quite and maybe matrimony “lets get married, in a big cathedral by a priest, cause if I’m the man that you love the most you can say I Do at least". The cymbal crashing and simple drum hits from Meg, and Jacks acoustic work fill this song with imagery that works. This was the first White Stripes song I ever heard, and it probably didn’t stimulate my intrest in them much, I figured they were some blues knock of band, but once you hear other White Stripes songs and you come back to Hotel Yorba, you can really sit back and go ‘wow, that Jack White, what an awesome song writer’.
Track 3 – I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman
Jack adds some nice piano work to showcase his ability with instruments, along with his amazing song writing skills. This is a love song of types, with some very intriguing lyrics. “have a doctor come visit us to tell us which one is sane". The guitars and Jacks vocals change up and down as the song shifts from chorus to verse. A fairly solid track, but after you listen to the album a few times, this track becomes unsatisfying.
Track 4 – Fell In Love With A Girl
This is the powerful, raw White Stripes which grabbed the attention of the rock magazines as they were looking for bands to slate into Garage Rock revival issues. The pumping energy of Jacks heavily distorted guitar and Meg’s rhythmic drumming. Jacks vocals sound a little nasally at some stages compared to the other tracks but its all good. The verse runs through a few times and Jacks distorted voices sings out “ahhhhhhahhh!". A short and sharp song that defines the White Stripes.
Track 5 – Expecting
A heavy repetitive guitar riff opens Expecting, with Jacks vocals matching the tone and speed of the guitar. This is a song that makes you nod your head as Meg pounds away on her drum kit, as she punishes it like a mother spanks a bad child. After each verse the song goes into a quite phase, which quickly rips back into the next verse as Jack continues his singing. Nice track to follow Fell In Love With A Girl. Before the song fades out entirely, the next track, Little Room, picks up.
Track 6 – Little Room
Throw away your guitar, and pick up Jack Whites voice box, set into quavering mode, add in some high hat hits from Meg, and a whole bunch of incomprehensible gibberish and you get Little Room. The songs lyrics are pretty rhetorical, it starts at point A, and ends there, the 50 second song basically brings you about in a circle. Definitely not a song that would attract you to the White Stripes, but it is a cool little deviation from the rest of the album. Kind of experimental I guess you could say?
Track 7 – The Union Forever
The guitar work that opens this track, along with the spooky organ makes this sound like the soundtrack to some grimy old detective movie set in the fog of the New York docks just as a crime is being committed. The main lyrics are “it can’t be love, for there is no love!" as Jack sings these out in earnest. Eventually the guitar stops and Jack sings along to Meg’s drumsticks in a school yard fashion. The guitars and the organ smoothly come back in and we return to Jack mumbling along “you said the union forever" and it picks back up as the spooky, sinister organ accompanies another chorus and the track ends.
Track 8 – The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
This track is brighter than The Union Forever, and that’s because it’s a happier type of song. The first half is kind of boring though, fairly predictable, but as the track lowers into the bridge it gets a little more imaginative. Jack contributes a little guitar fill as Meg is still pounding away on her drums. The song finishes on a falsetto note from Jack. Ok track.
Track 9 - We’re Going To Be Friends
Remember your first day of school? Not high school, or college, but your first day of pre-school or something like that? No? Don’t worry, Jack will help you remember. Acoustic guitar and no Meg at all give you a nice little look inside the head of a 5 year old boy. The lyrics all fit together wonderfully and it tells how Jack and Suzie Lee walk to school together and all the wonders they see on the way, from bugs to climbing trees. The song also drifts into the classroom, and then into the little boys dreams, “cause I can tell that we are going to be friends". Perhaps not a song that would attract you to the White Stripes, but an infinitely amazing song.
Track 10 – Offend In Every Way
Now this is one of the very first songs I ever learnt on guitar. After I heard it on this album, I was like, ‘Damn, I gotta learn this’, and I did. Jacks guitar is the focus of the song, as Megs only lightly taps on her kit. Very nice lyrics, focusing on expectation and impressions, and a piano is featured in the background giving the song a very heavenly feel. ‘With every word I say, offend in every way’, the song slows down near the ending as Meg gentle taps on her cymbals, and one of the best songs on the album comes to a close.
Track 11 – I Think I Smell A Rat
This is a song about treachery, and the lyrics are pretty straight forward, as Jack sings about children abusing their parents trust and care, and wallets. Another song with a darker feel, the aurora intensified buy the switching between lead fills and rhythm. The song picks up and then dies down to a similar sort of fashion to Offend In Every Way.
Track 12 – Aluminium
Ahhhhh. Ahhhhhh. Ahhhhhh. Wow, there’s the lyrics to this track, a real no simple one. Jack kind of moans out Ahhs all the way through this track with a whole heap of heavy guitar with lots and lots of feedback sounds. This is purely and experimental track, and it gets quite boring after a few listens, clearly a filler track I’m sad to say.
Track 13 – I Can’t Wait
This song is really a pleasant listen, nice guitar work opens up the track as Jack starts his trademark vocals. Jack is singing about waiting for his girl to come back, and his paranoia, ‘I thought you made up your mind?’. A very solid track with nice bridges and Jack singing ‘ohie yeahie yeahie yeah’ over the chorus, giving the track and extra dimension.
Track 14 – Now Mary
A short track that opens very gently on acoustic guitar, but it gets heavy quickly and alternates between the two very often. “What a season, to be beautiful, without a reason", catchy lyrics with clear meaning. Short, but solid.
Track 15 – I Can Learn
‘I wish we…were stuck up a tree!’. Weird lyrics, still about loving the ladies though. Like Now Mary, this track alternates between soft guitar and louder electrics very regularly, and by this stage in the CD it can become a little annoying. Meg drums hard when appropriate, but sensibly lightens up in the more gentle parts to accompanies Jacks voice as he voices his emotions excellently. The whammy bar is used around the track well, but never in excess.
Track 16 – This Protector
A nice piano set that sounds a little like ‘Jesus Was Way Cool’ by King Missile. Jack and Meg both sing softly ‘But Now’ and bring in the final track on the album. This track is recorded in a way that makes the vocals seem weak, probably recorded in a bigger room, away from the microphone. The piano leads in the whole song, no drums or guitar, and the bridge has weird lyrics but fit nicely ‘300 people living in West Virginia have no idea’. This is the most fitting of ends to a great album.
Now this is a truly awesome album, how could the White Stripes do better? Well, Elephant was better, and apart from some slightly better tunes, there was one major thing that White Blood Cells lacks, especially when compared to Elephant. Solos. Jack is an excellent guitarist, so why isn’t there any awesome solos on this album like the many that feature on Elephant? Ah well, I guess this album was a stepping stone to greater levels of awesome for the White Stripes. Definitely one of their best albums.
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
- Hotel Yorba
- Fell In Love With A Girl
- Offend In Every Way
- The White Stripes best album until Elephant
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground and Hotel Yorba
- Jacks guitar skills
- No guitar solos
- The CD is pure white, I have lost it so many times thinking it was just a blank CD