3.) The White Stripes - White Blood Cells (2001)
It's virtually impossible to think that before 2001 and the release of the White Stripes third record, White Blood Cells, most of the world had not yet heard of Jack White. Now, he's perhaps the most ubiquitous man in rock 'n roll this side of Dave Grohl but back then he was just a scrawny blues man from Detroit who liked to tell people his ex-wife was his sister. However, after hearing this monumental record, it was pretty clear to see this was a band who had the potential to go far.
White Blood Cells announced this band was a force. Just two people, but the sound they created was enveloping. The record is so wonderfully schizophrenic - like a rock 'n roll road map taking the listener on a journey from crunchy guitar riffs ("Now Mary") to stripped down non-songs ("Little Room") to acoustic nursery rhymes ("We're Gonna Be Friends") to straight punk rock ("I Think I Smell a Rat") to country stomp ("Hotel Yorba") to deliriously hokey references (the Citizen Kane breakdown in the middle of "The Union Forever"). All of these styles may make it seem like White Blood Cells is an unfocused mess, but quite the contrary - what the White Stripes do so well is take all these different styles, connect them and create something that feels analogous to them.
When you think about it, early on the White Stripes had a lot of gimmicks - the brother/sister myth, the red and white color color scheme. hell even the video for "Fell in Love With a Girl". Anything to get noticed, I guess and you can't really fault them for it. The probably needed these gimmicks on the outside because their music had none. No frills. No bullshit. No bass. Just two people intimately connected making personal, real music.
White Blood Cells is a record that has aged wonderfully. The White Stripes have made great records since and have only gotten more famous and popular (two different things, trust me) along the way. But there was something else present when White Blood Cells was dropped in our laps. Something effortless. Great songs, you know? Too often we, and certainly I, get bogged down in how good or bad a record is based on its scope or ambition or bells and whistles. It takes a record like White Blood Cells to remind you, nine years after its release, that it's the songs that are gonna make a record a timeless classic or a flash in the pan. White Blood Cells is a stone cold classic. Great songs. Really great songs. 16 of them to be exact. White Blood Cells is a record that will be shared forever, like Exile on Main Street or Rubber Soul. Yeah, it's that good.
Posted by Pat Driscoll