Saturday, February 5, 2011

Originally from The Purdue Exponent, Feb. 4:

The sun shines a bit dimmer today. Food is tasteless, words sound muffled and flowers have no discernible scent. My world has become a shade more bland as I mourn the passing of an age.

The White Stripes have disbanded.

Surely, this melancholy exposition will seem pointless and unnecessary to many readers, and that's fine. However, I am certain that there are a good number of individuals who will empathize with me on this topic, and to quote Burt Bacharach, I just don't know what to do with myself.

It is no secret to anyone close to me that I have a fondness for the White Stripes that borders on the fanatical. They are my all-time favorite band, and as someone who spends 60-plus hours a week listening to and playing music, this is no small achievement. I am obsessed with White Stripes frontman Jack White at a level that is somewhere past musical admiration and just shy of stalking. Therefore, the news of the band calling it quits is no less traumatic to me than it was for my parents when the Beatles broke up.

Forming in 1999, the Detroit duo of Jack and Meg White played a minimalist form of punk, blues and garage rock that achieved national attention with 2001's "Fell in Love With a Girl." The band's most recognizable song, "Seven Nation Army," has become one of rock's most memorable riffs and can routinely be heard on commercials and at sporting events. Many of the band's influences came from unlikely sources for a turn-of-the-millenia rock band: Southern blues artists such as Son House, Leadbelly and Blind Willie McTell.

Meg's simple drum beats and demure nature provide the perfect contrast to Jack's blistering guitar riffs and larger-than-life personality. Jack has been widely praised for his intense and experimental blues-rock style of guitar playing. He was featured alongside Jimmy Page in 2008's "It Might Get Loud," a documentary about the history and legacy of the electric guitar. (The Edge from U2 was there too, but he had no business sharing the screen with Page and White.)

The news of the band's decision broke this past Wednesday. The band stated that the disbandment was not for artistic differences, nor any of the other excuses that are generally responsible for disbandment. After nearly 12 years together, the White Stripes decided to end their band more for reasons of posterity. The Stripes worked hard to cement a specific musical and aesthetic style over the years, which has spawned a cult following as well as much commercial success. In their break-up statement, the Stripes pointed toward their fan's perceptions and support as the vision of the White Stripes that should be preserved.

"The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want," read the band's statement. "The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to. Thank you for sharing this experience. Your involvement will never be lost on us and we are truly grateful."

Although this means that I will never have the opportunity to see one of the last great bands of true rock ‘n' roll perform, I can't help but feel bittersweet. Why not retire gracefully at the top of your game? After all, isn't it better to go out when you're on top than to descend into mediocrity? Go ask Weezer. If George Lucas truly cared about legacy, rather than being a money-grubbing turd, he would have left "Star Wars" alone back in 1983. I digress.

This does not mean the end of all things White Stripes, however. Jack White is part of two other bands, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, produces albums for other bands and owns his own record label, studio, venue and record store in Nashville. Third Man Records caters to a specific market of music collectors by putting out all of its releases on vinyl and digital format rather than CD. The store routinely puts out vinyl record oddities of Jack's own design, including tri-color vinyl, scented vinyl and a 12-inch LP with a seven inch single encased inside. Additionally, Jack made sure to keep the vinyl rights to every White Stripes album, so he is free to re-release the albums on vinyl as he chooses.

Meg is married to Jackson Smith, son of punk rock legend Patti Smith, so she's got that going for her, I suppose.

Another age of rock ‘n' roll has come and gone, and I will never get to see my favorite band perform, nor hear a new album, but still I will look forward to what the future of music has to offer. So I will pop a peppermint in my mouth and reflect on what once was, while waiting for what's to come.

So long, White Stripes. It was a hell of a ride.

By Tyler Figg, Columnist

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