So Long Stripes!

Although the news is almost two weeks old by now, I still thought it’d be worth it to share a few thoughts on the breakup of the White Stripes, certainly one of the most important bands of the last ten years, and definitely one of my favorites.

First of all, I was not entirely shocked to hear the news of the breakup, since the Stripes have been inactive since mid-2007. We’d dealt with hiatus before, as Jack went off to film Cold Mountain (2003), produce Loretta Lynn’s incredibly awesome Van Lear Rose (2004), or record and tour behind the first Raconteurs album (2006). But after the duo cancelled their ’07 U.S. tour, and then Jack proceeded to make another Raconteurs LP, and then form another band, The Dead Weather, and release two LPs back-to-back with that outfit… we weren’t exactly holding our breath for a White Stripes return, were we?

Second, I can’t say that I’m terribly upset by the news. The White Stripes lasted ten years. That’s about as long as most bands can sustain a career without repeating themselves, and many of the Detroit proto-punk groups Jack and Meg modeled themselves after (The MC5, The Stooges) lasted even less. Recall how after the “divisive creative departure” of 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan (I still think it’s a great album), Icky Thump came in 2007 as an Abbey Road of sorts: a clear progression toward a bigger, fuller sound, but also a “once more for old time’s sake” revisiting of the duo’s original dynamic. It’s as fine an exit as can be hoped for in an era when most bands would prefer to wait it out till the nostalgia circuit calls, not even bothering to officially disband. (Reminds me of a song…)

My disappointment mainly revolves around the fact that despite a number of opportunities, I never got to see the White Stripes play live! A bullet-point list of shame:

  • 2002: The Stripes play First Avenue in the summer. I’m only getting to know White Blood Cells at this point, and anyway I’m miles away on my study abroad in Australia.
  • 2003-04: New Year’s Eve show in Chicago with The Flaming Lips. I’m in town for a reunion with my Australia friends, and although I bring up the idea of going to the concert, even I’m more interested in hitting the bars and stumbling through my clique’s cache of Aussie drinking songs. (Lame! This show was legendary!)
  • 2005: Back-to-back shows at the Orpheum in Mpls. This fell just after my teaching contract in Korea finished, and so I could have conceivably made one of these gigs. But I choose to backpack around China for three weeks and miss the chance. (Double Lame! I can see Terracotta Warrior statues at P.F. Chang’s any time I want!)
  • 2007: I actually manage to purchase tickets to see The White Stripes in San Diego, shortly after I move there for grad school. The show is set for a 20,000 capacity amphitheatre, but who cares: at this point I’m desperate! And then… the tour… gets cancelled!

Anyway, as I say, I’m not too distraught. The Stripes had such a retro vibe to begin with… I mean, they sounded like about a dozen bands who were long gone before I was even born… maybe that’s why I’m so okay with putting them in the past… But no! Jack and Meg were totally cutting edge! That perfect blend of innocence and grit, sweet and salty, proficiency and passion that makes any music essential! I REALLY should have seen one of those concerts. (Those two Raconteurs shows I’ve seen will never really count.)

Favorite album? Impossible to say. I love White Blood Cells for its garage-iness, Elephant for it’s Made-in-England, world-is-watching-and-we’re-fucking-huge-iness, and Get Behind Me Satan for its obligatory-mid-career-kitchen-sink eclecticism. WHC was the first one I bought, Elephant the one that knocked my socks on my ass the first time I heard it. (I still say walking up UW-Madison’s Bascom Hill in ’03 with “Ball and Biscuit” in my Discman was one of the single coolest things I did in college). Still, when I stop and think about it, Satan contains about my favorite Jack White vocal (“The Denial Twist”), my favorite Jack White lyrics (“Instinct Blues”), and my vote for funniest White Stripes video (“My Doorbell”)

Favorite White Stripes film appearance? That’s easy.

So long Stripes! Thanks for the memories, etc. I suppose we’ll be seeing more of Jack than Meg around town. Especially if you live in Nashville, where Jack’s begun fashioning himself as some kind of latter- day Alan Lomax. (Right on! I love that 25 Accents vid!) Let’s just keep the retrospective Rolling Stone interviews to a minimum, please. We’ll be keeping the White Stripes legacy back in that “Little Room” at the back of our hearts!



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