Minimalist garage blues is a loose label for any latter day band sounding like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or the Mooney Suzuki. At the time of their 1999 debut, Detroit twenty-somethings’ Meg and Jack White, siblings, have fit this label quite well as the White Stripes.
Appropriately, their motif is the red and white swirl of a peppermint candy. With their recent “White Blood Cells” working wonders on college radio, the pair excels above the minimalist tag into a sincere pop. Don’t expect Jack to stop wearing white undershirts and red polyester or Meg to chisel away her ruby nail polish onstage.
With slide guitars and twanged acoustic folk on “White Blood Cell” gems, Jack’s pedal and soaring effects array are a cloud-harping trade between Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
Influences range from blues pioneers Son House and Blind Willie McTell, which the pair cover on their first record “De Stijl,” to Jack’s obvious pop vocal style most noticeably penned by Sir Paul McCartney.
“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” leads the “Cells” rough package of 16 tracks. Jagged grunge guitar riffs oscillate into a folk-pattern verse, affront Meg’s cymbal tap verses and chunked bass drum and snare crashes. The two-minute folk ditty “Hotel Yorba” is the Stripes’ latest single and first music video. The hotel guarantees your pleasant weekend romantic getaway, “So just get married ’cause all they got inside is vacancy.”
With a poignant four-chord blues progression and a young McCartney rasped register, Jack White becomes the antithesis of any Beatle tune lyrically in “I’m Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman.” This taps into his Detroit punk background saying at song’s end: “Well I never said I wouldn’t throw my jacket in the mud for you / My father gave it to me so maybe I should carry you/ Then you said, “you almost dropped me.” / So then I did, and I got mud on my shoes.”
Subtly within verses, Jack goes from the John and Paul niceness of pop to Mick or even Iggy on the reverse side ever so slightly.
Immediately the pace shifts from “Gentleman” to the brash garage sound of “Fell In Love With a Girl” and “Expecting.”
The pop and classic rock guitars resurface in two “Cell” gems, “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” and “Now Mary.”
Two siblings with guitar and drums use minimal tools to create rock candy in the traditional sense. After all, Jimi Hendrix and Son House had no distortion pedals to produce psychedelic blues and slide acoustic songs with folk lyrics.
Jack White covers the extent of folk and country standards. His amplified modern rock tune only reverberates “White Blood Cells” ten fold with his sister’s accompanied beats. They also spin in a pre-Depression era field-holler mechanic into “Little Room” and the break of “The Union Forever.”
It’s no surprise that a recent outing to the Yale Coop in central New Haven found the Stripes blaring over the PA of the new branch of Urban Outfitters ‘neu’ clothing and novelty outlet and all copies of the Stripes sold out next door at Cutler’s Records.
Meg and Jack hit the road for several area dates in April. On April 3 they play The Roxy in Boston, Mass. and April 4 at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI.
A string of dates at east side New York City club the Bowery Ballroom for April 5 through April 8. All shows are 18 and over except for the Bowery’s April 5 and 6, which are 21 plus.