The White Stripes White Blood Cells

The ghostly bombed-out skyline of Detroit has always proven fertile soil for art-making, and nowhere is this more evident than in the garage band of the moment, the White Stripes. The Stripes have always been about economy; only one song on three records has ever hit the four-minute mark, and there is nary a backing vocal or bass guitar to be heard on their spare guitar-and-drums sound. Even as they reference everything from the Beatles and the Kinks to Led Zeppelin and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, ex-marrieds Meg and Jack White (he took her name) persist in sounding stubbornly, disarmingly original. More of Jack White's eccentricities gush forth than on previous efforts, while Meg White remains the paragon of cool with her sparse, unassuming drum style. The restrained production on White Blood Cells sees them honing their proven ability to write compact, catchy songs. Retaining a stubborn respect for classic rock, Detroit-radio style, Jack White screeches and croons his way through the 16 little gems on this album like a teenaged Zeppelin fanatic. He's a stumbling, awkward Robert Plant with self-esteem issues however, and his tales of fumbled love contain all the rage and despondency of a 15-year-old. Of course, within those delightfully histrionic lyrics is buried a furtive romantic. A staggeringly simple achievement. (Sympathy for the Record Industry)