The 15th Anniversary: The White Stripes’ “White Blood Cells”
Celebrating Under the Radar's 15th Anniversary and the Best Albums of 2001
Under the Radar's very first print issue came out in December 2001. In honor of our 15th Anniversary some of our writers are reflecting on some of their favorite albums (and movies and TV shows) from 2001, that are also celebrating their 15th anniversary.
When White Blood Cells was released in July 2001, The White Stripes were only known to garage rock enthusiasts who followed releases on the long-running independent Sympathy for the Record Industry label as well as Michigan scenesters in the know. By late 2001, the album's second single "Fell in Love with a Girl" changed all that when it was heard alongside Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others they had very little in common with on New York's modern rock station K-Rock. It eventually almost cracked the Top 20 in England and made enough of a splash in their home country by early 2002 that it not only secured them a major label deal with V2, but eventually went platinum and secured their place as one of the major bands (alongside The Strokes, The Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and others) in the then nascent and influential garage-rock revival of the early 2000s. Over time, it's become regarded as their finest work (alongside 2003's Elephant) and has been placed in many "best albums of all time" or "best albums of the 2000s" type polls.
So why was this the album that catapulted The White Stripes into the stratosphere? Perhaps the album's heavier and at times more punk rock oriented sound (as opposed to the country and blues influences so prevalent on their excellent sophomore album, 2000's De Stijl) better jived with radio programmers and the prevailing garage-rock revival then underway. Its first 11 tracks in particular are completely flawless, containing some of the band's very best material. In addition to the aforementioned "Fell in Love with a Girl," "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," "Hotel Yorba," We're Going to Be Friends," and "The Union Forever" (which contains only lyrics that are dialogue excerpts from Citizen Kane, Jack White's favorite movie) are all bona-fide classics. The last five songs aren't quite on the same level with the possible exception of the simmering "I Can't Wait" and arguably, the album would be even better as a more streamlined 12 song effort than a slightly sprawling 16 song opus. Still, at only 40 minutes, it values analog-era brevity over the excesses of the CD era.
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