There”s a rumble in the Motor City. A throaty purr that seethes with tension, as if any minute the great growl could come barreling down its pipe. Detroit knows this noise. It”s the sound of a late-“60s Ford sitting at a traffic light, all style and threat, potential and anticipation. When the lights change and feet push pedals, it comes the sound of 100 years of sweat and study and accumulated knowledge barrels out a of little two-inch pipe, and now, a little two-man band.
The White Stripes are the humble muscle car of rock bands stylish, powerful and made in Detroit. They take a love for 80 years of the blues, 40 years of garage rock, a slightly out-of-sync sense of style and a little of the old Dee-troit snarl, lube it all with sweat and screaming and fire it through the two stroke rock engine that is Jack and Meg White”s petite aural explosion.
Though comprised of only two people, the White Stripes are more powerful and dynamic than bands three times their size. Jack White plays guitar and sings while ex-wife Meg White bangs the drums. Though Jack and Meg are in their mid-20s and the band is only four years old, the White Stripes sound simultaneously ancient and modern. Jack”s songwriting combines his appreciation of the Delta Blues with his garage and indie rock sensibilities. He plays a menacingly toned, hook-laden electric guitar and sings about girls, boys, love and leaving town. Driving the music home are Meg”s super hard, fill-free drum parts that leave little room for question. When she hits the drums, she hits the drums and does so with confidence and primal power.
But the White Stripes aren”t only an all-out assault on the listener”s gentler sensibilities like many neo-garage bands. They have a softer side as well. Jack sometimes breaks out his acoustic guitar (and often his slide, too), Meg tones things down on the drum kit and the White Stripes woo the audience with gentler guitar strumming and crafty little melodies.
They have released three full-length albums in as many years and their latest, White Blood Cells is getting them much national and international attention. As well it should, since (like their other two albums) it utilizes the most fundamental of rules for rock and roll innovators: Ignore what”s currently cool and look to the blues for a sound you can appropriate, electrify and build upon. It”s a classic move that every rock and roll pioneer has used from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
But ever since Hendrix died or Elvis got fat there have been purists who wonder when the next musical messiah will come to save rock and roll. But rock never gets (and never got) saved, it just gets lazy and gluttonous and consumes pieces of its surrounding genres until it gets too fat to fit on a record (that means you Pink Floyd), and that”s when the innovators come and rebuild it from the blues up. The White Stripes aren”t saving rock and roll they”re remaking it.
Tonight, the White Stripes are playing a soon-to-be-legendary show at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Rivera Court, with its famous mural of industry and Detroit assembly lines, will shake and roar. At only $1 for students (yes, you read that correctly), no excuse will be good enough when your grandchildren ask why you weren”t at this show. Hitchhike through the Delta or sell your soul at the crossroads, just make it there tonight or spend an eternity wishing you had.