Coming soon to the Hard Rock Hideout Podcast (you have been downloading and listening, right?) will be a new game titled “Is It Hard?” In this game, Rob Rockitt and I will debate the hardness of certain rock bands that teeter on the cusp of what could be considered hard rock music. As an introduction to the game, I thought it would be nice to do a column in advance, discussing the first band that I would like to debate in the “Is It Hard?” category—The White Stripes.
The White Stripes were a band that consisted of Jack and Meg White who were either married, brother and sister, or as some believe, both. Regardless of their supposed infidelities, The White Stripes were a fantastic band that split up way too early in their career. I still yearn to hear some new White Stripes music, but instead have to settle for solo Jack White, which is good, but not as good as The White Stripes.
Although the band released their first album in 1999, it wasn’t until the 2002 major label re-release of White Blood Cells that The White Stripes rose in popularity and recognition. The first single from White Blood Cells, “Fell In Love With A Girl” was one of the hardest rocking songs of its time. The power chords that opened this song demanded immediate attention. Once Jack White’s voice filled the speakers, I was hooked. This was hard rock at its finest—a new wave of hard rock. Sure, the purists would label it garage rock, but it was all the same to me.
After listening to White Blood Cells several times, I noticed that it was difficult to pin the White Stripes into just one category. First, their music consisted on one singer/guitarist and one drummer. No bass, no keyboards, no extra anything. It was Jack White’s ability with the guitar in his hand that really drove home the music. The sounds he could make were simply astonishing. White Blood Cells as well as the bands later albums contained soft songs, esoteric songs, and punk songs. However at the center of all their albums, was hard rock music at its finest. From the aforementioned “Fell In Love With A Girl” to “Icky Thump,” the cranking, shredding guitar, heavy drum tunes have hard rock written all over them. Songs like “Offend In Every Way,” and “There’s No Room For You Here” are closer to heavy metal than anything else, and the White Stripes recorded several hard rockers during their career.
Granted, their third major label album, Get Behind Me Satan, was filled with more experimental songs that lacked the punch of their predecessors, but The White Stripes were quick to correct that on their swan song, Icky Thump. And while Get Behind Me Satan was a strong, fun record, it was certainly not a rocker in any imaginable form. However, the short lived experiment found the White Stripes returning to their roots of hard rocking hits on their next album.
In 2009, The White Stripes abruptly ended a tour when Meg White was overcome with anxiety. While it was disappointing to see the band cease the tour, what was even more disheartening was the fact that it would be the beginning of the end for The White Stripes. After 2007’s Icky Thump, the band never released another album. Early in 2011, they officially called it quits, announcing that there would no longer be a White Stripes.
Listening to songs like “Ball And Biscuit” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told), the logical conclusion is that the White Stripes are hard rock music. Yes, they may fit the bill more for punk rock than any other genre, but a lot of punk bands can still be considered hard rock. The White Stripes certainly fit this category. Their music was edgy and masterful with blistering guitars and thundering drums. Nothing screams hard rock more than that. And while they are gone yet not forgotten, they are still missed.
When you observe the entire body of work that The White Stripes released during a ten year period, there is no doubt in my mind that they are a hard rock band. What about you? What’s your opinion of The White Stripes? Would you say “It’s hard” when it comes to The White Stripes?
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