I love my bass guitar.
I just needed to say that because a number of bands out there are bass guitar-deprived and don’t sound the worse for it. Sleater-Kinney, King Brothers and, of course, the White Stripes — bass-less all of them.
But take a few dozen listens to the Stripes’ White Blood Cells, and it’s not even apparent Jack and Meg White do without some musical foundation.
Jack White manages to make a mean bottom out of his crunchy guitar playing, and when Meg White stomps on that kick drum, it sounds positively thunderous.
The White Stripes’ music is something of a sonic conundrum — the pair make a really huge sound out of very minimal elements.
Thanks to a bit of overdubbing, the guitars on “Fell in Love with the Girl” and “I’m Finding it Hard to be Gentlemen” occupy some large aural real estate. As a result, the band’s uncluttered sound gives its classic rock riffage a beeline to a listener’s subconscious.
To use fewer $10 words, this shit’s got its hooks on.
Jack and Meg also know the value of dynamics. Where some bands are content just to start loud, play loud, end loud, the White Stripes know a whisper can be just as good as a scream.
“The Union Forever” builds gradually to an ugly, dissonant chord, only to break into a singing-talking middle section with Meg’s rimshot as the sole accompaniment.
Jack starts “Now Mary” with some sweet singing, only to be answered by a crash of guitars. The call-response play on “I Think I Smell a Rat” is almost Mozart-ian.
Knowing when to pull back makes the loud parts of the White Stripes’ music even more so. And trust me — this duo can get pret-ty, fuck-ing loud.
All these musical tricks aside, White Blood Cells is a good album for the simple reason that it has good songs. Melodic but aggressive, tender in some moments but seldom sentimental (with the exception of “We’re Going to Be Friends”).
White Blood Cells certainly deserves the accolades it’s so far garnered.