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Boston Globe
04/05/02

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 Meg, go.

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.


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