Ranked: The White Stripes

In a very similar vein to previous Ranked subject The Black Keys, today we have male-female duo The White Stripes. First active in 1997, the duo released six studio albums and in 2011, they officially called it quits following a long hiatus from writing and performing. Majorly responsible for the “garage rock revival” scene coming out of Detroit, the then-married Jack & Meg White used a lo-fi recording approach, utilising just drums and guitar to create simple and effective jams that often lasted only 2-3 minutes.

Towards the latter end of their discography, they threw a couple of musical curveballs which were still critically acclaimed, however never reached the massive success they gained with two albums in particular. Following the split, Jack pursued a solo career to much success and has been a part of many high-profile side projects since and throughout his White Stripes tenure. So here is my ranking of their very stellar discography.


[6] Get Behind Me Satan (2005)


The Stripes’ penultimate album followed 2003’s ‘Elephant’, a heavily guitar-driven record. ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ saw Jack White substitute his electric guitar for more piano-based melodies in the majority of the record’s cuts. The album may contain some of White’s most sincere and thought-provoking writing, yet musically it just doesn’t carry through.

The duo had tastes of piano-driven tracks in previous albums, however to switch your music style almost completely when you spend four albums building your sound, it just doesn’t fit. I understand the pair wanted a change and that’s commendable, however this record definitely sits at the bottom for me.

Essential tracks: Blue Orchid // My Doorbell // I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)


[5] The White Stripes (1999)


At the time of release, their debut album was one of a kind. It inspired a host of artists to go out and make a stripped-back rock record themselves, therefore to some extent is highly influential for many modern bands’ discographies today. The White Stripes created an identity of writing raw, riff-based tracks with drumming that was secondary to the mix and it worked very well. Their debut isn’t a bad record, it’s actually quite good for a band’s initial ideas. However it just doesn’t stand up to their subsequent records and how they managed to refine and hone in on their sound.

Essential tracks: Jimmy the Exploder // Wasting My Time // I Fought Piranhas


[4] De Stijl (2000)


The duo’s sophomore record trimmed the fat of their debut and gave it a bit more polish. Jack White started to concentrate on adding more depth and meaning to individual tracks, experimenting with different guitar techniques (slide guitar) and vocal styles. It had more of a country feel to it, due to an influx of acoustic-based instrumentation, often with very sparse drums from Meg White. As a whole, it had more resonance than the outright simplicity of their debut and is why it ranks above it for me.

Essential tracks: Hello Operator // Apple Blossom // Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?

[3] Icky Thump (2007)


The final studio album that came from Jack and Meg White. Following the musical switch in ‘Get Behind Me Satan’, the pair returned to their guitar-based sound in ‘Icky Thump’, which funnily enough is their only album to feature a title track. The album featured a sense of new experimentation as the pair searched for alternate methods to record instrumentation. The result is a highly refined and calculated record that still manages to retain that lo-fi garage blues sound from their debut.

Essential tracks: Icky Thump // Little Cream Soda // I’m Slowly Turning Into You

[2] White Blood Cells (2001)


Their third album was the band’s commercial breakthrough that bred their first massive hit ‘Fell In Love With a Girl’. The duo continued the natural progression they executed from their debut to sophomore and brilliantly harnessed it within their third. ‘White Blood Cells’ is home to many of Stripes’ most memorable cuts, namely down to the duo further refining their sound to create a better, more cohesive statement than before. There’s a great variation within the record, from the attention-grabbing opener ‘Dead Leaves…’ to immediate follow-up acoustic number ‘Hotel Yorba’. This would be the quintessential White Stripes record, if it wasn’t for number one of course…

Essential tracks: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground // The Union Forever // Offend in Every Way

[1] Elephant (2003)


Yep, the album that has ‘Seven Nation Army’ on it. But trust me, that isn’t why it’s #1, it’s one of the best tracks of the century but the rest of the record is equally as good. The album created many, many memorable tracks. Jack White’s lead guitar work peaked with this record, as evidenced in the sheer brilliance of ‘Ball and Biscuit’. His multiple solos and downright cool aesthetic he creates makes it my favourite White Stripes track. The album as a whole has a bit of everything; all-out rockers, bluesy jams, downtempo ballads, you name it. The quintessential White Stripes record, for sure.

Essential tracks: Seven Nation Army // I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself // Ball and Biscuit


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