Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Stars, the Stripes; Detroit's the White Stripes Are Setting the Tone for the Next Wave of British Pop

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Stars, the Stripes; Detroit's the White Stripes Are Setting the Tone for the Next Wave of British Pop

Article excerpt


THE White Stripes, who play two sold-out shows at the Brixton Academy tonight and tomorrow, currently top the British album chart with their fourth album, Elephant. Since their first shows here in the summer of 2001 - greeted with hysterical media attention, without so much as the involvement of a record label or publicist - they have well and truly lodged in the national consciousness.

This week's rave reviews for their second UK tour confirm, in John Lennon's memorable phrase, that they have reached the "toppermost of the poppermost".

For once, wildly enthusiastic critics and quietly influential taste-makers, such as longtime booster John Peel, can feel vindicated in their perspicacity.

The stripped-down, back-to-basics two-piece band from Detroit must have seemed unlikely stars. Jack White, 27, and Meg White, 28, former husband and wife, he on guitar, her on the drums, pass themselves off as brother and sister.

They eschew the bass guitar, both sing and play blues numbers that predate the Second World War and recorded their latest album at Liam Watson's Toerag Studios in Clapton - yes, Clapton, east London - on equipment that was superseded a decade before they were born.

Although record companies will have taken note of their pared-down working methods - Elephant cost a piffling pound sterling5,000 to record - they might find it harder to deduce why Jack and Meg White have registered so strongly in the public mind. Perhaps the White Stripes have turned up at just the right time, as the first years of the new millennium bring changes in fashion.

It is no mistake that they have come to prominence at a time when live music is back in favour. After years of dominance, club culture seems passe to teenagers who have rejected the now mainstream entertainment choices of their older siblings; they are falling instead, in a big way, for noisy, sweaty rock shows, from numetal shouters to cute indie shamblers, such as the Strokes and Sweden's rowdy Hives.

Simultaneously, a jaded older generation, tiring of the drug culture of dance music, is returning to booze.

Drinking is back, and alcohol and rock 'n' roll are a time-honoured combination. As superclubs struggle, London has become the world's undisputed capital of live music once again - and it's not just homogenous pop. Reggae and electronica jostle with raucous rock.

Musical open-mindedness is the order of the day, and the past is no longer a foreign country either. The White Stripes' loving appropriation of the blues is hardly novel, but to a young audience they present something unfamiliar, while older listeners can appreciate their skill at reviving an ancient art.

John Peel compared Jack White favourably with Jimi Hendrix - and he should know.

Riffs may be purloined, but the mosh pit in front of the stage neither knows nor cares. …

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