This month, I'm excited to post an article written by my good friend, Madison Grenley, one of the leading critics in the field of identity, metafiction, and gender performance. Recently challenged on the value of Meg White as a drummer, Grenley wrote a brief defense, incorporating her interest in authentic expression and the unity of form and content. Watch for the article in the forthcoming issue of NettleDrum Magazine. Enjoy!
Kicking Up Dead Leaves:
Authenticity and the Musical Contribution of The White Stripes
by Madison Grenley, B.A., M.A., Oxford Graduate, TA for Dr. Sisiphys M.D.
Published by the University of Windsor's Music Department
on the back of old sheet music because fuck the university
if you put money into your programs and faculty instead of new useless infastructure(sic)
this wouldn't happen
The White Stripes are a two piece band featuring Meg White on drums and Jack White on guitar, piano, and various other messed up instrument-hybrids that are cool as shit. Easily identifiable by simple and driving drum lines, raw vocals, and blues-inspired guitar riffs, the Stripes garnered national and international attention in the early 2000s, winning two Grammy awards. Their weird framework narrative, where married couple Meg and Jack are cast as brother and sister, matched with their candyfied childhood swirl of red, white, and black, defined their image and added to their charismatic performance style and noteworthy musical talent.
Rolling Stone Magazine listed Jack White as #17 on their 2003 listing of greatest guitarists, above such rockers as Frank Zappa and Eddie Van Halen (Rolling Stone). Jack White’s influence during the early 2000s is reflected by his appearance alongside Jimmy Page and The Cliff, I mean The Edge, in the 2009 documentary "It Might Get Loud". Throughout the film, White focuses on the "real" aspects of music: he has his son play an electric guitar by stepping on the strings, telling him to "[p]ick a fight with [the guitar] and win the fight" (“It Might Get Loud”). For White, the increasing amount of technology involved in the production of rock and pop in the 1980s and '90s was killing the creative spirit of the art form. He plays a song by blues singer Son House to illustrate the power of honest and raw music: "It didn't matter that he was clapping off time...the only thing that mattered was the attitude of the song." Authenticity isn't based on the veneer of sound production or even the capability of the musicians; the soul of a song, what it is expressing, is the most important aspect of any song, or any musician.
This brings us to the core of the White Stripes' sound: Meg White. “She's the sound,” claims Henry Gilles in a brief 2014 interview, “Jack plays blues. He's not the [W]hite [S]tripes”.
Jack attributes the band's direction and stylistic choices to her "play[ing] like a little caveman, like a little child" ("It Might Get Loud"). Cultivating this aspect, Meg lays down a solid driving foundation for Jack's crazy vocal and instrumental antics; if Meg had strayed into drumming decadence, the whole structure holding the White Stripes together would have fallen apart. After all, they were "hailed for bringing a refreshing simplicity back to rock & roll" (Rolling Stone).
Ultimately, what the White Stripes bring to the rich and varied music scene of the past fifty years is a focus on an authentic and unprocessed sound that hearkens back to the anti-establishment blues of the 1920s and 1930s. Using their respective musical abilities, Meg and Jack White explore the "importance of rock's abrasive and experimental nature" combining simple heartbeat drumming and exploratory instrumental and vocal work (Rolling Stone).
Pawn to H4.
Gilles, Henry. Interview. Facebook, INC (fuck you, Facebook). 25 Sept 2014.
Rolling Stone Magazine. “WHITE STRIPES: Biography.” Ed. Jim Macnie. Web. 25 Sept 2014.
“It Might Get Loud.” Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. 2009.
Web. 25 Sept 2014.