MUSIC REVIEWS FROM THE HEART OF TORONTO

WHITE BLOOD CELLS BY THE WHITE STRIPES TURNS 15


Last month marked the fifteenth Birthday of the seminal third album by Detroit duo The White Stripes, the aptly titled White Blood Cells. The album was originally released on July 3, 2001 on the independent Sympathy For The Record Industry label. Within a year of its indie release, it would subsequently receive major label releases in the UK (on the XL Recordings label) and shortly thereafter in North America on the Virgin Records imprint V2. When V2 records folded at the end of 2006, Warner Bros. Records kept the album in print until 2009, at which point Jack White's Third Man Records reissued the album on vinyl and has kept it in print ever since. 


Acknowledging the importance of White Blood Cells to the garage rock revival of 2001-2002, and indeed the history of rock music in general, chorusVERSEchorus has assembled a Top 5 list of reasons why White Blood Cells still matters.


​1. Upon its release in 2001, White Blood Cells was arguably the most critically respected album by a two-piece rock band to ever be released. Point in case, Pitchfork gave it an esteemed 9.0 rating out of 10, and Rolling Stone rated it 3.5 stars out of 5. With the exception of electro acts like The Chemical Brothers, no other rock bands at the turn of the twenty first century were receiving this kind of attention.


2. White Blood Cells was a completely atypical album for The White Stripes. Unlike their self titled debut or sophomore album De Stijl, White Blood Cells contains no blues influence whatsoever, nor are there any cover songs like their previous two albums. Indeed, the high majority of the material on White Blood Cells was written for other bands that Jack White was performing with at the time, namely Jack White & The Bricks and Two Star Tabernacle.


3. White Blood Cells produced three viable radio singles and four music videos, all of which were career firsts for The White Stripes. "Hotel Yorba" broke the band in the UK, while "Fell In Love With A Girl" had the same effect in North America. "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground" acknowledged the band's ascendance within the emerging garage rock revival of the day, while "We're Going To Be Friends" had an extremely low-budget music video, nonetheless found its way into the opening sequence of the film Napoleon Dynamite and would go on to be covered by Jack Johnson for the film adaptation of Curious George.


4. The album cover art is iconic. To this day, the cover of White Blood Cells is probably the best photographic document of the Detroit music scene as it existed in 2001. Jack and Meg White, dressed in coordinated red and white outfits, represent the white blood cells, while the faceless black figures who represent the harmful bacteria are in fact comprised of a who's who of the Detroit garge scene: Dan and Tracee Mae Miller of Blanche, Brendan Benson, Ben Blackwell of The Dirtbombs, David Swanson of Whirlwind Heat, and members of The Von Bondies. The photo is credited to Patrick Pantano of The Dirtbombs, who would go on to photograph the band for both the Elephant and Get Behind Me Satan album covers.


5. White Blood Cells represents Jack White's introduction to recording in Tennessee. While the first two White Stripes albums were both recorded in Detroit, White Blood Cells was recorded at Easley McCain Recording in Memphis, Tennessee. The White Stripes wouldn't record again in the state that Jack White now calls home until 2007's Icky Thump, the band's final album. Equally significant, the band's decision to dedicate the album to acclaimed country singer Loretta Lynn resulted in Lynn's daughter introducing the band to her mother, and ultimately Jack White's production of her 2004 Van Lear Rose album and the initial assembling of the band that would become The Raconteurs.