Normally when you think of bands, the image of a huge stage and a 4 to 10-member group comes to mind. It’s a rare occurrence to check out a band and come to find out it’s only a duo. Today’s Cheap Tunes Tuesday installment doesn’t just feature two people making amazing music—they’re perhaps the best music duo of all time.
The White Stripes are made up of Jack and Megan White – a husband and wife duo that got married in 1996. When they tied the knot, Jack was playing in various bands, but Megan had never played an instrument before. In 1997 Jack was jamming away on the guitar and Megan started messing around on the drums. What started out as a joke, turned into a bond that turned into forming a band—and they played their first show the same year. They initially presented themselves as brother and sister, which would end up causing some slight confusion and controversy when they hit it big.
Icky Thump came out on June 15th of 2007, and would turn out to be the final release for The White Stripes. It was recorded in roughly three weeks down in Nashville, Tennessee – and remarkably took the most time of any of their six studio albums to record. It is certified gold by the RIAA, which makes it their fourth best-selling album. In May of 2007, a Chicago radio station played the entire album before the release, and without the permission of the band. This caused Jack to call into the station and angrily react toward the DJ about the leak. It turns out the label probably did this intentionally, hoping to stir some more buzz about the upcoming release.
Fans of The White Stripes consider this work an appropriate finale, mainly because of the return to the garage rock sound from the early days. People not familiar with their music would probably be able to recognize their ‘Seven Nation Army’ due to its incredible popularity and intense impact in sporting arenas worldwide—but that wasn’t the signature Stripes sound devotees got on this album. On Icky Thump, Jack and Meg decided to introduce elements of Scottish folk music with trumpets and bagpipes on a couple tracks, which some people really loved, while others seemed to question the additions. Between that and the elements of soul, rock, blues and punk, this album and the band give you a little taste of just about everything.
There is no question Jack White is one of the better guitarists of his generation, and is up there with the best of all time. When you hear a track like ‘Little Cream Soda’ – the opening pulls you in, and his guitar work just makes you want to play it over and over. Meg White is no slouch on the drums either, and when you’re simply a duo with a guitar master, you have to be able to hold your own on the skins. Their music while over a decade old now, not only holds up, but is well respected by fans and fellow musicians alike.
There might be times when this album seems a little disorganized, or maybe mismatched, but it sticks with you. Especially the tracks I’ll highlight below, I can just start humming these in my head even without hearing them in months. While the marriage and band relationship may not have lasted for Jack and Meg, they most definitely left their imprint on music history. And for $5 bucks, you can get a taste of rock history.