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[Off The Record]
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White Stripes
(Sympathy for the Record Industry)

This remarkable Detroit guitar/drums duo ó brother-sister team Jack and Meg White ó have been called a blues-punk outfit, which is an understandable description but also an incomplete one. On the Stripesí version of Son Houseís " Death Letter, " Jack Whiteís playing ó in contrast to, say, Bob Log IIIís or Jon Spencerís ó is a blues without agenda or pretense, without the noise and slop employed by most white punks as a crude shorthand for the violence, confusion, grit, unpredictability, eccentricity, and spontaneity of the Delta blues. The Stripesí blues is raggedly economical without sounding spare (their intention, most often, is to sound bigger rather than smaller), gregarious without becoming ostentatious, modern but unpolished: the startled stricken grief of " Death Letter " remains, stark and sanguine, like twilight on tombstone.

The rest of the disc finds the siblings re-enacting the journey from the blues to hard rock. Jack Whiteís favored vocal inflection rings with Robert Plantís subdued hues; " Little Bird " and " Iím Bound To Pack It Up " suggest a portable Zeppelin (of both the hammer-god " When the Levee Breaks " and the folk-gnomish " Misty Mountain Hop " varieties). " Youíre Pretty Good Looking " quotes Ritchie Valens with a veracity somewhere between the Honeydrippers and the Demolition Doll Rods; and a piano-goosed " Apple Blossom " essays Beatle-esque art pop. From there, itís a tiny hip-hop-inflected jump to the ghetto-thunderous " Hello Operator, " which reprises the Zep-to-rap connection at least as well as the early Beastie Boys did.


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