Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Music

Ranking every White Stripes album from worst to best

@TylerGolsen

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: The White Stripes don’t have any bad albums. Unless you’re the Sex Pistols, it’s pretty much impossible to have a sterling catalogue without any misses or duds in the bunch. Perfection is impossible, especially if you stick around for long enough to mess it up. The White Stripes somehow managed to circumvent that with uncanny precision for a complete decade.

Although they established a signature sound centred around minimalism and lo-fi aesthetics early on, Jack and Meg White managed to fit in quite a bit of experimentation with genres and styles throughout their eight-year recording career. Everything from folky singalongs to extended marimba-lead jams filtered into the band’s albums as the duo constantly retooled their sound.

Each White Stripes album represents a different version of the band: there’s blustery blues-rock, refined alternative rock, piano-heavy lounge music, and even traditional Spanish mariachi. All the while, Jack and Meg left links to their past and returned to old styles so as not to lose themselves completely in different arrangements. The White Stripes tried a lot of different costumes on, but they always managed to sound like The White Stripes.

With a relatively small discography to parse through, it’s possible to run through the entirety of The White Stripes’ catalogue in just a few hours. It’s an eye-opening experience to hear how radically the duo changed in just a few short years. When taken all together, there’s no better testament to the unquenchable creative drive of The White Stripes than their six studio albums.

That’s why we’ve decided to rank them. These are all six White Stripes studio albums, ranked from worst to best.

Ranking every White Stripes album from worst to best:

6. De Stijl

The fact that De Stijl sits at the bottom of this list implies that it’s a bad album. That couldn’t be farther from the truth: situated right between the band’s lo-fi origins and their explosion into the mainstream, De Stijl has plenty of magical tracks working in its favour.

‘You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)’, ‘Hello Operator’, ‘Death Letter’, and ‘Sister, Do You Know My Name’ are top-tier White Stripes material. The rest of the album is just fine, but pretty good isn’t going to get you very far when the rest of your discography is so transcendent.

5. Icky Thump

The White Stripes were still one of the biggest bands in rock music when they released their sixth, and ultimately final, studio album Icky Thump. But the struggles and fractures between Jack and Meg were starting to show, leading to a mostly inspired but occasionally stilted final LP.

Still, with tracks like ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’ and ‘300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues’, the creative sparks were most assuredly still flowing between the pair. As a final statement, Icky Thump can’t help but feel like a bittersweet summation of the band’s entire career, but it’s a damn good album that can handle that kind of weight.

4. The White Stripes

As far as laying the foundation for The White Stripes goes, the band’s self-titled debut is an almost perfect summation of what made The White Stripes irreplaceable in rock music. Foundational texts include ‘Jimmy the Exploder’, ‘Screwdriver’, and ‘Cannon’, the likes of which would inspire the band’s entire sound for the rest of their career.

But it’s the deeper cuts that make the biggest impression on The White Stripes: ‘Sugar Never Tasted So Good’, ‘Wasting My Time’, and especially the fiery finale of ‘I Fought Piranhas’ caused the rest of the music world to stand at attention and acknowledge one of the most exciting bands of the 2000s just as they were getting started.

3. Get Behind Me Satan

Get Behind Me Satan pulls off one of the ballsiest tricks that The White Stripes ever conjured up: it leads off with a classic blues-rock stomper that fits right into the band’s wheelhouse with ‘Blue Orchid’, and then spends 40 minutes deconstructing every element of The White Stripes’ sound that made them so beloved.

Hallmarks like distortion, blues, and garage rock can hardly be found on Get Behind Me Satan. Instead, Appalachian folk, barrelhouse piano rockers, lounge music, and experimentation take the lead, creating the most eclectic collection of songs that the band ever put out. Get Behind Me Satan is the most ambitious LP The White Stripes ever put out, but it wouldn’t have worked unless those experiments were truly inspired.

2. Elephant

OK, get it out of the way: listen to ‘Seven Nation Army’ and enjoy it. It’s the first song for a reason – if it were anywhere else on the album, the song would be a black hole that sucked up everything around. But once you move beyond it, Elephant is an embarrassment of riches and excitement.

‘There’s No Home for You Here’ and ‘Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine’ are two of the hardest-hitting songs in the entire White Stripes catalogue, while ‘Ball and Biscuit’ and ‘The Hardest Button to Button’ have become legendary for good reason. Meg gets a chance to shine on ‘In the Cold Cold Night’ and a campfire singalong sends us out on ‘Well It’s True That We Love One Another’. Elephant might have just missed out on being the band’s best LP, but it undoubtedly has some of the highest highs of the duo’s career

1. White Blood Cells

If you like any aspect of The White Stripes and their unique sound, then White Blood Cells is the album that fulfils all your desires without missing a beat. The bluesy stomp of ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ opens a 16-song explosion of rock, folk, ballads, and experimental compositions. Still retaining their raw and stripped-back sound, the album captures The White Stripes when their ambitions were highest.

Unlike their later albums, the deeper cuts here feel even more lovingly laboured over than the bigger tracks: you can practically feel the sweat drip off of ‘Aluminum’, ‘I Think I Smell a Rat’, ‘The Union Forever’, ‘I Can’t Wait’ and ‘This Protector. The most complete listening experience of the band’s entire career, White Blood Cells remains the greatest testament to The White Stripes and their singular power over rock music.