What’s black, white and red all over? A bunch of roses for V-Day? A newspaper ad with an “I love you” message buried deep in the personals? AT LOTI, we’re a romantic bunch, but like to do things a little differently. Today, the spotlight for Spotify’s Throwback Thursday falls on a loud, raucous, heartfelt, romantic at times band that’s black, white and red all over, The White Stripes. It’s time to kick back, turn it up, get the candlelight going, and then clear some space to cut a rug. Welcome to White Blood Cells.
In one of rock’s great PR ‘mysteries’ the back story to Jack and Meg White, was shrouded by the question: siblings, or lovers? We later worked it out, even without the hunting down of official paperwork by the press, but it pointed to somebody who’s very careful about what he presents to the world. ‘Just’ another rock band with a ‘simple’ aesthetic hook? (The red, white and black clothes), or a band firmly in control of their music, appearance, mystique and personal lives?
Jack’s notoriously private about his personal life, even when married and later divorced to model Karen Elson (throwing curveballs to journos to make them second guess his ‘eccentricity’). He’s undoubtedly a musical legend, but it’s his passion for the blues and rock, helping other artists (via his label Third Man records), keeping vinyl alive, and sheer joy and enthusiasm that’s heard in every project (even if they’re a little dark, noisy and angry sounding). This is a musician who’s in love with music, and it shows.
Meg, on the other hand, smiled coyly, hammering out rudimentary, yet powerful accompaniments on the drums, for her hubby. She was the backbone, and on 2001’s White Blood Cells, she came to the fore and gave them a primal, raw sound that belied her lack of musical training. White Blood Cells was their third album, but it broke the mainstream partly due to the innovative, utterly surreal, yet rather cute Lego based video for Fell in Love With a Girl, directed by the equally ridiculously talented Michel Gondry. It’s up there as one of the best videos of all time, as is the album.
So, murky romance, carefully orchestrated PR, a definite edge to Mr White’s ‘deal-with-the-devil’ prodigious talent, but what about the album itself? It’s a love album, definitely. Not a soulful, be my baby album, but a ‘sorry for what happened, I’m coming back to you’ kind of love album. All sung and played with a fragility and urgency that will leave you feeling exhilarated and hitting repeat after its 16 tracks (from 2 to 3.5 minutes long) have finished. The clues are in the titles: ‘I’m Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman’, ‘Fell in Love With a Girl’, ‘Expecting’, ‘The Same Boy You’ve Always Known’, ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’…Each song tells a story. He’s a storyteller. His voice jumps up and down the register, crackling with hate and misanthropy, or singing sweetly. The album fuses punk, garage rock, country, blues and heavy metal to make a swampy, elemental, glorious racket.
The singles are the obvious highlights, but when you revisit an album in its entirety, it’s good to give each track the space to breathe without hitting NEXT. ‘I Think I Smell a Rat’ is simple, short and has some gentle plucking sitting next to some power chords. ‘The Union Forever’ has a gloomy indie vibe, but also showcases Jack’s ‘almost rapping’ style that, well, works just fine. Expecting is Sabbath meets Nashville. Yep. White Blood Cells is a dark, twisted, crazy fun ride with a smattering of beautiful moments. But hey, that’s love, right?
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Top 5 countries streamed in: US, UK, DE, ES, BR
Most streamed on Friday 5 Feb 2016
24% female, 76% male
Most popular with 18-22 year olds