Here’s a clip of minimalist indie-blues titans The White Stripes with their 2007 single “Rag and Bone” as taken from my favourite album of theirs, Icky Thump.

Besides the appeal of the song’s central riff, which spectacularly tears up the seats, I think the thing I like most about this track is that is brings out the role-playing in which the Whites have always engaged.  Putting personas out there which frame the music they make has always been their strength, initially posing as brother and sister, and wearing their tri-colors proudly.

The White Stripes recorded the album Icky Thump in Britain, where the band named the album after an expression native to the North of England ‘Ecky Thump’.  The expression is a tame expression of shock or frustration.
The White Stripes recorded the album Icky Thump in Britain, where the band named the album after an expression native to the North of England ‘Ecky Thump’. The expression is a tame expression of shock or frustration.

And in this song, they’re really having fun, playing out these roles as door-to-door scavengers, vaguely menacing, but ultimately harmless.  The rag and bone seekers roughly parallel Jack White’s real life interest in collecting and pulling musical styles together; blues, country, rock, folk, and even latin music is referenced on the album.  Perhaps it’s not that much of a stretch to look at the Whites as musical rag and bone merchants.

After the first Raconteurs record, I wondered about the state of the union where the White Stripes was concerned.  Songwriter Jack White promised us in the rock press that the Raconteurs is a real band, not a side project or hobby band.  Where I was glad that White would be working with Brendan Benson again, it made me worry about whether Meg would hang up her sticks.  Meg White is a great drummer for the band she’s in as anyone with any sense knows, and it would be a shame not  to continue to hear that trademark thump-crash-drunken-Bonham style behind Jack’s growling guitar and vocal yelps.

I worried too that even if the Stripes would remain to be going concern, that White’s A-material would be channeled into the Raconteurs.  It seems that this isn’t the case either. For me, Icky Thump is their best record, stealing the spot where I’m concerned, from 2000’s DeStijl, which held the crown for a while.

After over fifty years of rock riffage, you’d think (and in some cases, maybe you’d be right) that the well had run dry when it came to shockingly good, riff-driven songwriting. The fact that the White Stripes prove this theory wrong every time they release a record is more than comforting that there’s life in the old girl yet.

To hear more music, wander down to the White Stripes MySpace page.

And also be sure to investigate the official White Stripes website for upcoming releases, tours, and other assorted goodies.

Enjoy.

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