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The White Stripes

White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry)

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It's no wonder all anyone wants to say about The White Stripes is what a great crunchy sound they have. Just when it looked like old-school guitar rock was dead forever, here comes this divorced Detroit duo -- the Stripes are just Jack White on guitar, Meg White on drums and no one else on anything -- to kick the genre in the ass and bring it back to life. The pair's third album has it borrowing thunder from Led Zeppelin and bratty garage licks from The Kinks, plus plenty of punky power chords from the likes of Wire (The Stripes' "Expecting" is "Three Girl Rumba," but slower) and more recent indie minimalists such as Superchunk and House of Large Sizes. What's more, they make plain the ways all those bands are, at base, just playing different versions of the blues.

What usually goes uncommented upon are the Stripes' lyrics, which provide some of the album's best moments. No matter how darkly the group's music rages, its songs are often nothing short of gosh-darn sweet. Sure, on "The Union Forever" they insist There is no true love, but Jack White is nearly as likely to admit I don't know any lullabies ... but I can learn or to carp against know-it-all kids who treat their folks like shit. And just as surely as they cop John Lennon's scorching riff from "Revolution," they offer a tale of puppy love ("We're Going to be Friends") that's unabashedly Paul McCartney. Its seemingly depressive title aside, the heavy, lurching guitar on "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" captures perfectly the ecstatic, dangerous, romantic rush of being reunited with a lover. If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear me coming down the hall, Jack blurts. And as his ex bangs along with him to create a lumbering, feedback-laced groove, it makes you want to drop everything and race to meet them at the door.

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