Minimalist sound, raw emotion color White Stripes' set
By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff, 4/5/2002
See Jack. See Meg. See Jack scratch at the strings of his guitar. See
Meg smash her drums. See Jack and Meg play rock 'n' roll. Go, Jack and
There may be a controversy about whether Meg and Jack White are brother
and sister, as they claim to be, or former spouses, as rumor has it. But
there's no question that the music the White Stripes make really is as
rudimentary and plain-spoken as a vintage school primer. Beneath the duo's
minimalist sound, however, are emotional currents that are raw and convoluted
and lyrics that are powerful meditations on love, fame, and betrayal.
Rooted in blues, punk, and country, the White Stripes shred traditional
styles with a garage-band aesthetic - no artifice, no excess - that made
their songs sound fresh as the peppermint candy that inspires their motif.
Not many of their contemporaries would pen a lyric like ''I'm so tired
of acting tough/I'm gonna do what I please/Let's get married.'' But the
White Stripes plowed through a breakneck set that drew largely from their
new disc, ''White Blood Cells,'' with the sort of maverick attitude that
separates genuine talents from the buzz bands du jour.
Jack - dressed head to toe in bright crimson - is a restless, accomplished
guitarist, and his constantly shifting moods and seemingly endless supply
of grooves, riffs, and tempos made for an hour of music more dynamic than
one would imagine a unit this spare could conjure. Pigtailed Meg is the
straight, steady track to Jack's runaway train. While Jack loosed disheveled
blasts of grinding glam-rock, careered through blustery punk chants, and
slipped sideways into muddy streams of slide-guitar blues - often in the
span of one song - Meg chose her supersize, dirt-simple beats with an
innate feel for his blind turns.
All of which would be impressive in itself. But the White Stripes have
a formidable songwriter and singer in Jack, who zigzagged to the blistering
center of cocky rockers such as ''Dead Leaves and the Dirty'' and the
vicious ''The Union Forever'' as persuasively as he sketched the sweet
flush of school days in the McCartney-
esque ''We're Going To Be Friends.'' His sneering cover of Dolly Parton's
country classic ''Jolene'' was a black and mournful contrast to Meg's
set-closing rendition of Loretta Lynn's ''Rated X'' - sung in a high,
clear voice that made you wonder why she doesn't share more of the vocal
duties. It would add yet another brain-scrambling piece of shrapnel to
the White Stripes' gripping little explosions.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Brendan Benson played a whip-smart set of
fuzzy speedballs and hook-drenched rockers from his new album, ''Lapalco''
(reviewed on this page), and New Zealand's Datsuns opened with raucous,
AC/DC-inspired fist pumpers.