The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

The White Stripes
White Blood Cells

WOW. I’m not gonna waste time on petty details. This is the best CD I’ve heard in 2001. Period. If you are a fan of indie rock in any form, pick this disc up and play it until your ears bleed.
The White Stripes are hard to categorize, simply because they mesh genres so easily. Brother/sister combo Jack and Meg White capably mesh quite a few styles on White Blood Cells, and the end result is a very diverse listening experience with a basic structure that is strong enough to keep the album tied together tightly.
White Blood Cells opens with a massive Jack White guitar riff on “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” which is actually one of the strongest songs the Stripes have put on record yet. Mighty guitar choruses give way to delicate guitar lines and back, with Meg’s drumming the closest thing to ‘heavy’ that she’s done yet. The disc completely changes directions from there, as “Hotel Yorba” swings things in an upbeat, jangly country-folk direction. “I’m Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman” slows things up a bit, as Jack leads a swell of guitar and piano with the proclamation that “If I could find emotion to stimulate devotion, well then you’d see.” “Fell in Love With a Girl” is two minutes of loud, foot-stomping rock-and-roll, while “Expecting” plods along a strong, Sabbath-esque riff. “Little Room” is a nice little vocal-and-drum number (featuring some demented scat vocals from Jack) about trying not to get lost in your own success.
At this point, the Stripes change things up again with the slow, deliberate spoken word delivery of “The Union Forever.” The track is interrupted by another vocal/drum interlude before returning to its ominous organ and guitar roots. I’ve actually heard/read rumors that the lyrics of this track are all lines from Citizen Kane, though I won’t be able to prove that until I rent the flick this weekend. “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” is quite the somber ballad. Jack’s words float on a bed of acoustic guitar and organ that slowly picks up steam, building up and then settling back down for the resolution, when Jack admits that “If there’s anything good about me, I’m the only one who knows.” In one of the nicer moments of the disc, Jack tells the tale of boy and girl schoolyard friends in the acoustic “We’re Going to be Friends.” Lest you think Jack’s gone soft, “Offend in Every Way” kicks off with a guitar line that sets things straight again. “I Think I Smell a Rat” is straight-up “1950’s meets thick guitars,” while “Aluminum” is a heavy, psychedelic instrumental worthy of early Monster Magnet.
“I Can’t Wait” follows, slightly resembling a hybrid between Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” and “Pennyroyal Tea.” This track is so unbelievably nice on so many different levels … Jack’s voice is so delicate here, like he’s trying not to drown out the delicate guitar that frames his words. Then, guitars swell and his voice follows suit, calling out “I thought you made up your mind.” Good, good stuff here. “Now Mary” is a bittersweet look back at an old flame, meshing acoustic and electric guitars for a rockin’, yet twangy vibe. “I Can Learn” is a quiet/loud, stop-and-go slower number featuring even more of the aforementioned “1950’s meets thick guitars” sound. The album ends on a quiet note with the short piano track “This Protector,” with Meg (strongly) backing Jack on vocals.
White Blood Cells is like the most infectious roller coaster in the world. Every song leads the disc into a new direction, making the already great disc even stronger after repeated listenings. I’ll go out on a limb six months into the year and state that White Blood Cells is THE album to get this year. Simply awesome.