As I write this entry I’m currently on a flight between Sydney and London. It’s an economy flight so, while it’s better than the one screen per cabin, the entertainment options are reasonably limited. You have a selection of movies, television shows, games and most interestingly a selection of CDs to choose from. On an economy flight you’d expect that the music would have to “appeal to the masses” (that wasn’t meant to come out so elitist) so as I browsed the selections I secretly hoped I’d find The White Stripes so I could illustrate a point and lo and behold there was Icky Thump. The point I’m trying to make is that now the White Stripes are an accepted commercial force. They are no longer music’s best kept secret, appreciated by casual music fans all over the world. As I’m about to delve into the first album, which it’s easy to forget was a really small release, you’d expect me to comment on how, what once was an untamed band shifted it's sound to appeal to a broader audience. Well I’m not because if you played me Jimmy The Exploder back in 1999 my comments would’ve been “these guys will be big”.
In a recent review of Jack’s latest group, The Dead Weather, the writer described Jack as someone who played rock the way it should be played, but so rarely is. I couldn’t agree more with this. It really does frustrate me when someone says that Rock n Roll is uninteresting and that I should listen to the leyered and “cutting edge” sounds of more textured bands, which often to me sound pretentious and hollow. At the same time a majority of modern rock n roll is mindless and monotonous becoming more of an AC/DC tribute act than anything of vague artistic importance. It’s hard to advocate more with less when it’s rarely pulled off so that’s why I put my faith in Jack because he can do it better than anyone else.
Jimmy The Exploder is one of the best arguments for more with less and while it’s all but vanished from the bands set lists it’s holds an important place in their discography. With Let's Shake Hands you are taken back by the sheer raw power of it and are sucked into the bands ethos. In a way there’s almost an element of shock value in it, although I don’t want to discredit the song, and as an opening single it’s amazing but you couldn’t have a whole album of it so when The White Stripes open up their first album they need to prove they can do more. And they do prove it. There’s an opening catchy drum beat, a cool riff, surrealist lyrics, a wordless vocal shout along and a tempo change but most importantly it’s all done with two people. As Jack says why would you need a bass playing the root notes and a second guitar playing the chords when all music requires is three elements? That’s what the band is about, breaking down music to it’s core elements and, if after being broken down, a rich and full song can be performed than the principal works. In that way Jimmy The Exploder single handedly proves their philosophy to be an applicable one.
I could talk about the song in a deeper examination but it seems pointless. You could strain yourself talking about Jack's bizarre intentions with his lyrics (something about an angry monkey?) or mention the stylistic similarities between this riff and the one in Lafayette Blues but at the end of the day, as the albums brief opener, Jimmy The Exploder is a song that wants to get straight to the point, down and dirty. The album itself contains plenty of moments of both lyrical and musical depth but this is just an appetizer. You’ll want to dance along, sing along, air drum and most importantly you’ll want to keep listening.
And so begins my exploration of The White Stripes, hopefully I will get these done quickly but in the mean time: comment! If you like what you're hearing, say something. Even better if you don't like what you're hearing, say something louder.