Friday, 18 September 2015

50 albums to take to my grave #28: White Blood Cells

Before you continue with this article, may I suggest you re-read this piece to understand why this album had such an impact on me. It also saves me writing it again...

Ah, you're back. Right. So putting everything else to one side, the music on 'White Blood Cells' varies in styles and moods, yet remains consistently gripping throughout. Fourteen years on from its original release, what makes this record just as endearing today? Well it seems to gel so well in spite of its variety. The undulating distorted delight of the opener Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground gives way to the hillbilly stomp of Hotel Yorba. Then we get the organ-led blues of I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman (still one of my fave White Stripes songs) followed by the raw punk-pop blast of Fell In Love With A Girl, and Expecting boasts a riff that almost out-Sabbaths Black Sabbath. It's seamless in spite of its eclectism, and we haven't got to the end of side one yet!

I remember getting a bit of a tingly feeling the first time I heard The Union Forever. It has a creepy, Hallowe'en feel to it that sounds like Screamin' Jay Hawkins meets Portishead's first album. It's a standout if only for the fact it sounds utterly unique in the band's catalogue. Of course, the big attraction of the White Stripes at the time was their ability to look and sound like no one else AND take that over into the mainstream.

Side two is a little less adventurous, its songs being loud and guitar-fuelled, although it is preluded by the cute and childlike We're Going To Be Friends. There's still plenty of interest here though. Offend In Every Way would have made a cracking single; I Can't Wait and Now Mary are also among the best songs on the album; I Think I Smell A Rat was an early fave of TheMadster - she would sing along to it (aged 5) on car journeys; Aluminum is a monster that has its roots in early 70s heavy rock (Led Zep, Deep Purple).

Right through to the closing duet, This Protector, Jack and Meg enthralled me in 2001 and still do now. 'White Blood Cells' is not an album you can get bored with, and it remains a record that sounds distinctive and unparalleled. It is also timeless; it hasn't dated one iota, maybe because it was always rooted in rock music's past in the first place. Its impact at the time cannot be underestimated, but if the songs and the sounds weren't there, The White Stripes wouldn't have had the effect on modern culture they undoubtedly went on to achieve.

If I'm being completely honest, the White Stripes probably made better records than 'White Blood Cells' (yes, really!), but this being the one that introduced me to the band and shook my world to its foundations means it joins me in my grave over the others.


  1. I love The White Stripes too. And especially this album – it would probably be in or near my top ten. And I saw them on the same tour you did when they broke through... and I was blown away too – to me they were the first band that had come anywhere near the visceral joy of seeing (The) Pixies live...

    Anyway, I've been a long time reader of your blog thanks to TVV and I find our musical tastes and experiences are remarkably similar... so keep up the good work...



  2. Great stuff but gosh don't they look young in that photo?

  3. Great post(s), Robster. I agree to all you said about The White Stripes. Certainly they did better records but I turned into them with this record as well. Recommended by a friend they blew my mind away when I first listened to the songs. Never thought that any band will do this again.