15 Years On: White Blood Cells by The White Stripes

On the 15th anniversary of The White Stripes‘ breakthrough album White Blood Cells, SFN‘s Editor-in-Chief and rather large Jack White fan Jack Cinnamond takes a look back at the album. 

2001 was a strange time for music, Whitney Huston signed the largest contract in music history with Arista ($100 million!?), Napster shut down finally, we got the first album from the animated Gorillaz, established acts like Thin Lizzy and Babes in Toyland broke up, Electric Light Orchestra reformed (without vital members) for a disastrous year, Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit (cries), Michael Jackson did everything and even original Zombies members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent reunited for a special gig at the Jazz Cafe. It was just a wild year.

Although, on this day in 2001 we gained an album like no-other, The White StripesWhite Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2001). Built around Jack White‘s love for the blues and his need to push away from that love with a loud, brash guitar/drum combo that at that stage, was like nobody else. With their bluesy garage rock sound, The White Stripes quickly began to sound like a modern day two-piece Led Zeppelin, with a more intimate, rough sound.

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The crazy thing is, looking back at the album, how many of The White Stripes‘ standards were placed onto the record. From the opening track “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” to (in-order) “Hotel Yorba”, “Fell In Love with a Girl”, “We’re Going to Be Friends” to “The Protector”.

The album is a proving ground for the then-25 year-old Jack White, after two other albums with The White Stripes and a starting career with local Detroit bands like Goober & The Peas, Two Star Tabernacle etc. yet White Blood Cells would be The White Stripes‘ breakthrough album and would showcase not only Jack‘s playing skills but also his overall musical style.

Notably Jack White played all instruments on the record that weren’t drums, produced the record solely and wrote all the lyrics, composed the music and practically made the entire album what he envisioned. Perfectly, the would be the groundwork for everything Jack would and could ever do in the future.

“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” was the greatly placed opening to the album, immediately showing off Jack & Meg‘s chemistry and ability to time their playing to one another so perfectly, it sounded like they were veterans. The track introduces the listener to who The White Stripes are and did it in style.

The White Stripes quickly dropped their garage sound for the acoustic, drum banging, foot-tapping piece “Hotel Yorba” which shows off Jack‘s ability as a songwriter,

“It might sound silly, for me to think childish thoughts like these / But I’m so tired of acting tough and I’m gonna do what I please / Let’s get married, in a big cathedral by a priest / Cause if I’m the man that you love the most, you could say I do at least”

On the first half of the record, we continue to get The White Stripes‘ best, with “Fell In Love With A Girl” bringing their unique, borderless sound with speed and fury.

The only issue with White Blood Cells would be it’s un-flessed out songs such as most of the latter half of the album. However, the entire album is saved by the standout tracks’ brilliance.

Since the record’s release back in 2001, we gained just three more studio albums from The White Stripes until their break-up in 2011. Meanwhile, Jack worked with his other bands The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs and his overall solo career as-well as running Third Man Records out of Nashville. Meg White retracted from the public eye since the disbanding.

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