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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