photo & text by nacrowe
i came across THE WHITE STRIPES during my sophomore year in high school, which was spent at a boarding school in western MASSACHUSETTS. friends of mine that were massive INDIE ROCK heads saw them play small clubs in nearby NORTHAMPTON and AMHERST as they were promoting their self titled THE WHITE STRIPES (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 1999) debut and follow-up DE STIJL (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2000) albums at turn of the millennium. to me they seemed like one of many celebrated but firmly UNDERGROUND groups at time like NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, THE FLAMING LIPS, THE DELGADOS, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS or PAVEMENT. the most noteworthy aspect of their band was their UNCONVENTIONAL, MINIMALISTIC presentation and sonic aesthetic. two players with three basic elements: guitar, drums and vocals.
i had moved to KUWAIT my junior year to live with my family when WHITE BLOOD CELLS (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2001) blew up behind the single "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL," and i had the damnedest time trying to figure out why. to me that song and the record as whole was not entirely different than that of its two predecessors. there was FOLK / BLUES hybrid thing going on with plaintive ballads and introspective stompers in "HOTEL YORBA," "DEAD LEAVES ON THE DIRTY GROUND" and "WE'RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS." maybe it was the fact that MICHEL GONDRY sprayed his INVENTIVE cinematic pixie-dust all over the LEGO-animated "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL" video or maybe it was just good timing as their seemed to be a whole slew of like-minded 2000s ROCK REVIVAL bands bubbling up and gaining popularity at the time like THE STROKES, THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS, MGMT, THE LIBERTINES, INTERPOL, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS, TV ON THE RADIO, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, THE DARKNESS, BLOC PARTY and ARCADE FIRE among many others.
what has really knocked me sideways in the years since is how their unconventional yet lean and highly potent two-person format has gained popularity in the years since, most famously with bands ranging from THE BLACK KEYS, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, SHE & HIM, PHANTOGRAM, CHAIRLIFT, NO AGE and LIGHTNING BOLT to JAPANDROIDS , THE KILLS, CULTS, PURITY RING, BEST COAST, SLEIGH BELLS and ROYAL BLOOD. someone out there is more knowledgable than me could probably name a precursor to this format, but i cant name or think of one. its pretty stunning that THE WHITE STRIPES got the ball rolling with the idea of ROCK N ROLL duo.
like all their records, WHITE BLOOD CELLS is a THOUGHTFUL, heavily BLUES-based album that brings together the best of GARAGE ROCK and INDIE ROCK in a SPARSE, MINIMALIST package by design. also like their whole discography, this record is an INTERESTING experiment in creating MEANINGFUL art from imposed LIMITATIONS that force the artist to transcend their CONSTRAINTS. that aspect of their work i will always find COMPELLING. definitely worth checking out.