Little Room: THE WHITE STRIPES on John Peel
If it hadn't been for a bootleg, I may have never become a fan of THE WHITE STRIPES. A few years back, when the band's third full length "WHITE BLOOD CELLS" was released, I wrote a review of that record for a suburban Philadelphia weekly. I knew so little about the band that I had to pair that review up with a review of BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB's debut album. I basically reviewed them both as modern bands who were reaching back to separate eras (the Stripes to the mid-60s garage rock and STOOGES albums, BRMC to the late 80s Jesus and Mary Chain-style fuzzy droning guitar rock).
I thought both records were pretty good, with a couple of great songs. I really loved the Stripes' "We're Going to be Friends" because it sounded like a Kinks-era Ray Davies track. I listened to the record for a few weeks and then just kind of forgot about it. It would be a few months before the Michel Gondry/Lego video would become wallpaper on MTV.
In the meantime, I was trading a few live concerts with someone online and noticed that they had a 2001 Peel session for the White Stripes. I asked for a copy. Three weeks later, it showed up in my mailbox and almost instantly became my still-favorite Stripes record.
While their records are great and contain moments of brilliance, hearing or seeing Jack White in concert is another thing entirely. Critics may complain about Meg White's simplistic drumming, but she actually works quite well for her brother/ex-husband's needs. Through nods, grunts and shouts, Jack instructs her on where he's taking a song. Sometimes he might go for an extended solo, slow the song down entirely, or drop a cover right into the middle of a song they're playing. Their sound is so huge, you can easily understand why the Whites feel the need to keep the music to themselves and not share the stage with extraneous bandmates.
If you've heard their records but never fully caught the bug, I hope these tracks from that Peel session give you the same change of mind that they gave me. (Oh, and if anyone out there can find me a copy of the New Year's Eve show the Stripes played with the FLAMING LIPS in Chicago, I will love you forever.) I can't count how many times I've given this CD to someone and made them a convert. Pay particular attention to the thrashing they give Dolly Parton's "Jolene," and the insane guitar work on "Death Letter." Also, please remember to play these songs LOUD.
THE WHITE STRIPES - Live at Maida Vale Studios July 2001
"Let's Shake Hands"
"Jolene" (Dolly Parton cover)
"Death Letter" (Son House cover)
"Astro/Jack the Ripper"
"You're Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)"
For more on tonight's post:
- The White Stripes' home page.
- A couple of downloads can be found at WhiteStripes.net
- Punk Kittens play "Fell in Love with a Girl"
- The Stripes at Wikipedia
- A French fan page