#497 – The White Stripes, “White Blood Cells”

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells.

497-cover

Where do I begin with this album? This was one of the items on this list that I was almost kind of looking forward to. I typically like The White Stripes, and the first couple of tracks on this album reminded me of why I like them. “Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground” has a cool garage rock sound that goes right into the playful “Hotel Yorba,” and I find myself thinking this is going to be a pretty good album. But then track 4, “Fell In Love With a Girl,” starts playing and I’m reminded that I don’t always like The White Stripes.

This point on the album starts to show the disparity in the quality of the songwriting. Songs start sounding thrown together (“Little Room” is an example). A couple tracks are put together a little less haphazardly, but don’t really manage to glue everything together. More than anything they end up sounding like they don’t belong on that album. There will be a few kind of crappy ones (“I Think I Smell a Rat” [or, as I like to call it, “I Think I Smell Some Crap”]), then a few pretty decent ones (see my track picks, below).

The simple review of this album is that when it’s good it’s good, and when it sucks it sucks. After that, I’m not sure what else to add. Jack White has some good guitar tone and from time to time puts together some awesome riffs. Meg White’s drumming is incredibly simplistic but is stylistically on point for these songs, giving the music much of its unique sound.

Sure, not every song from every band can be a hit, and having a couple of songs that shouldn’t have made it past quality control find their way onto the album shouldn’t disqualify it from being great. But this album really doesn’t strike me as one of the greatest of all time. Some of their later work is much better quality, and had more success. Elephant makes its way onto the list, which is a far better pick for one of the greatest of all time (more about that in about 100 entries).

That begs the question: Why not just leave it at that, and find some other deserving album to throw on the list?

Spoiler alert: I’m probably going to be asking this question a lot.

There are just a few points when, looking at the list, I find myself wondering if the folks at Rolling Stone Magazine are really that bland. I don’t want to spend too much time bashing Rolling Stone (okay, I do want to, but I’m going to practice restraint. At least for now), but there really are a lot of head scratchers on the list. And they don’t give a lot of explanation for them. Take the write up for this album as an example:

The third album by Jack and Meg White was the right dynamite for a mainstream breakthrough. Jack’s Delta-roadhouse fantasies, Detroit-garage-rock razzle and busted-love lyricism, as well as Meg’s toy-thunder drumming all peaked at once.”

Ummmm, okay. Thanks? That really does nothing to convince me this album deserves to be on the list.

Enough about that. White Blood Cells does have some quality tracks on it, and even if the whole album isn’t worth listening to, you should definitely give a few of the songs a chance. My top picks, in the order that they appear on the album, are:

  1. “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”
  2. “Hotel Yorba’
  3. “I’m Finding it Harder to Be a Gentleman”
  4. “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known”
  5. “We’re Going to Be Friends”

There are a couple other tracks that you might find by skimming, and you might also want to give some of their later work a try. And if that doesn’t work for ya, try picking something from this list.

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