The Best American Band: The White Stripes

The White Stripes

The White Stripes

I admit that I am a big fan of The White Stripes. I like the simple, straightforward nature of their songs, the inventive guitar work of Jack White, the basic, garage-band percussion of Meg White, and the no-frills quality of the vocals and lyrics. And yet, for all of the simplicity of the sound, the songs seem to have lots of diverse influences — like blues, surf music, and reggae to just name a few. I’ve got The White Stripes on a bunch of my Ipod musical genre-oriented playlists, and there’s a reason for that.

I’ve noted before that my tastes run more to the hard rock end of the spectrum, and therefore I have great admiration for Jack White’s very tasty guitar licks. Ball & Biscuit, one of my favorite songs, captures the ragged edge, live-sounding aspect of the band’s work. The guitar on that song variously utilizes feedback, distortion, and picked-out solos, and then returns to a basic blues riff with a bit of a twist. The song isn’t sung, it’s muttered. The percussion sounds like it has been pounded out on the bottoms of overturned metal ashcans. I’ve written before that I listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Call Me The Breeze before law school exams to get me ready, but I think if I were taking a law school exam these days Ball & Biscuit might be a contender. It demands cranked-up volume and some air guitar work on the part of the listener. The same group then can record a sweet song like We’re Going To Be Friends, a paean to first-grade friendships, or Hotel Yorba, which is pretty hysterical. Go figure.

The Ipod speaks very well indeed of The White Stripes. I recognize that Richard might be harshly critical of this notion, but I think any group that has recorded songs like Ball & Biscuit, Do, Hotel Yorba, Rag & Bone, In The Cold Cold Night, It’s True That We Love One Another, One More Cup of Coffee, Offend In Every Way, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and Seven Nation Army — among many others — is an easy finalist.

Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!

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Men of the Scarlet and Gray

Photo from the protest in Iran

Photo from the protest in Iran

A friend at the firm sent this to me today.  I’m glad to see my alma mater so prominently represented in the pro-democracy protests in Iran, and I hope that the Ahmadinejad regime meets the same sorry fate that the University of Michigan Wolverines have met at the hands of the Buckeyes in recent years.

Common Decency (Cont.)

I previously noted that I thought David Letterman should feel ashamed about his crude joke about one of Governor Palin’s teenage daughters, so I’m glad to see that he has apologized. I’m also glad to see that Governor Palin accepted his apology.  Finally, I’m glad that his apology didn’t take the now-standard form of the non-apology “apology,” which goes something like this:  “I didn’t intend my [remark/conduct/joke] to offend anyone and did not think anyone would ever construe my [remark/conduct/joke] in that fashion.  To the extent that anyone was offended by my [remark/conduct/joke] I am sorry.”  At least Letterman had the character to offer a true, unconditional apology for his poor judgment.

With any luck, the episode will cause other figures in the entertainment world to recognize that there still are some lines that, as a matter of common decency, should not be crossed.

Church Chimp

Russell's rendering of the giant blue inflatable chimp

Russell's rendering of the giant blue inflatable chimp

The season of Vacation Bible School is nigh, and the church adjacent to our neighborhood pulled out all the stops in order to generate enthusiasm for the idea that kids should go to church during summer vacation. A giant blue inflatable chimp with an American flag emblazoned across his chest loomed in the front yard of the church. The chimp wore red boxing gloves, its arms were upraised in triumph, and its face bore a fierce expression, with fangs bared. Russell’s excellent painting aptly captures the monstrous ape’s outlandish appearance.

I saw this chimp when I walked Penny in the mornings, and it’s hard not to think about what the heck the chimp has to do with church. Is there some Book of the Apocrypha that deals with primates? Did one of the disciples box? Did God torment Job with a beating administered by a fierce, gigantic blue chimp? I’m pretty sure the answer to these questions is no — which means that the chimp is just there to call attention to the church and its Vacation Bible School.

This morning on my walk with Penny I saw that the chimp is gone.  Next week he may appear in front of a car dealership in Kalamazoo, or at the Grand Opening of a discount store in Chattanooga, hoping to attract attention and shoppers. It’s kind of a sad commentary when the same huge bright, inflatable item is used to advertise both consumer goods and churches.