Few bands arrived with as much grease, grit and gusto as The White Stripes did. Popping their heads out of Detroit, they brought with them a searing brand of garage rock that hadn’t been seen since the sixties. The fact such a furious sound came out of a simple duo was one thing, their costuming, style and effortless artistry seemed to just put them over the top — The White Stripes were simply the best of both worlds.
The indie-rock explosion of the ’00s has got a bad wrap recently. Sure it provided some truly horrific bands and some even worse outlooks, but it also provided us with some truly legendary groups. More often than not, these great bands fell into two camps. They were either incredible musical purists, bringing with them a sense of encompassing command of their sound, or they were a band who found fame with style over substance. The fact that The White Stripes managed to do both puts them head and shoulders above the rest. But where do you start with the duo?
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re bringing you every album from The White Stripes ranked in order of greatness. It not only provides you with the perfect place to begin your garage rock odyssey but also goes a long way to show just how potent Jack and Meg White were. Though they’ve only released six albums in their time (and no new LP looks likely any time soon), the music incorporated within these discs is truly inspiring.
Meg White is considered one of the most underrated drummers of all time, thanks in no small part to her counterpart Jack White. Simply put, there isn’t a single guitarist in the world right now who can match his guttural tone. When we look back at some of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived, it is easy to stop looking after 1980. The stock of impresario guitarists in the sixties and seventies was so good that it almost felt like guitarists gave up during the eighties and nineties. Of course, there are reams and reams of names to be listed off as wonderful guitarists. While most of those players are technically proficient and masterful musicians, White had something different. He had chutzpah, talent and the grit to get him and the bands he chose over the line.
The late nineties were a tough time for rock bands in America, and, with very few managing to dislodge Nu-Metal as the genre du jour, the scene looked grim—that is until one band emerged from the primordial goop and delivered on the promise of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, it would all begin with Meg White and The White Stripes. The greasy Detroit dwellers quickly made a name for themselves as the dirty side of rock music, releasing their self-titled debut album in 1999.
What followed was four years of intense production. White was the man in charge and drove the band toward worldwide success. First, the band released De Stijl, then, a year later, they shared the seminal record White Blood Cells. By the time promotion for that LP was complete, The White Stripes were confirmed as not only your new favourite band but quite possibly the saviours of the entire rock ‘n’ roll scene.
Below, we’ve done the hard work for you and ranked all of The White Stripes albums in order of greatness.
The White Stripes albums ranked from worst to best:
6. The White Stripes (1999)
Mor often than not, a band’s debut album is their best. It makes sense too. After all, years and years of trying to make it as a group finally culminates in your debut album, capturing the intense struggle and emotion of the previous years. It usually provides the clearest expression of the band at hand, not so for The White Stripes.
That’s not to say the band’s self-titled debut effort from 1999 is a bad record, far from it. It’s an excellent album, flecked with moments and songs that suggested this was just the beginning of a long and winding road. ‘Screwdriver’ is one hell of a track, and while ‘St. James’ Infirmary’ boasted a ramshackle blues the group would later perfect but, aside from noting its importance in launching the band, the LP ranks as their least brilliant.
Still, the record reeks of the future. Pumped up riffs can barely be contained, and White’s vicious vocal flies out with a horrific velocity.
5. Icky Thump (2007)
The band’s final record, 2007’s Icky Thump, is being given a tough ride compared to these records. For any other artist, a record like Icky Thump would be floating near the top but, for The White Stripes, it’s struggling for breath. Its lowly position is that, in comparison, it just doesn’t arrive with the same powerful punch that the others do.
The title track is certainly a contender for one of the band’s best, least of all because of the fantastic lyric: “White Americans, what nothing better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.” Aside from that song, the band are desperate to get back to basics, songs like ‘Rag and Bone’ and ‘Catch Hell Blues’ saw the duo revert to type.
However, outside of those seminal songs, the album lacks in power, where other records triumphed. It was perhaps best to call it a day after this LP.
4. Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
The band’s early albums set a precedent that The White Stripes knew how to rock. ‘Rock’ is a dirty word these days, but that’s really the best way to describe the band; they were the purest form of rock we had. That’s what made it a slightly strange decision to depart from their sound and chase a new venture on 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan.
The garage rock sound is thrown to the side as White pursued a more countrified twang, championing Loretta Lynn and T-Bone Burnett’s work as informants to his new vision of the American gothic. Gone are the pitchforks and pallid expressions; White brought a little bit of hellfire to an already dark place.
Somehow, it transpired into one of the band’s most commercially recognised LPs. Songs like ‘My Doorbell’ and ‘Blue Orchid’ had already determined the record that was to come, but the strange routes Get Behind Me Satan chooses to get there is why it’s still a cracking record.
3. De Stijl(2000)
The album to truly announce The White Stripes on the mainstage was, in fact, their follow-up to the debut, the brilliant, unbridled and unrelenting magic of De Stijl. The record is full to the brim with brilliance but largely hangs on the identifying power fo White’s furious riffs.
The record doesn’t mess around with the formula the White duo were concocting and relies heavily on the garage rock rambunctiousness that had seen their debut LP gain a foothold in the music world. The songwriting however shows early signs of the huge potential they would achieve with ‘Apple Blossom’ being a particular highlight.
Of course, this was just the beginning. Within a few years The White Stripes would be the biggest band on the planet and headlining festivals across the world. It was on this album that they put their prints on the industry properly, they just so happened to stomp them down.
2. Elephant (2003)
The natural reaction when speaking about The White Stripes 2003 LP Elephant is to pay tribute to the idiom and pay homage to the biggest song on the album, perhaps on any White Stripes album, ‘Seven Nation Army’. The song has since reached the point of a universal anthem, thanks to its riff-tastic notes, where it is now being used across the myriad of human tribulations.
Outside of the crowd-bouncing classic, however, is some of the band’s most pleasing work. No only does the record contain ‘Ball and Biscuit’ and ‘Hardest Button To Button’ — two powerhouse tunes — but it also holds within it possible White’s greatest riff of all time in ‘Black Math’.
If previous record shad announced the band as potential world-beaters, Elephant backed it up with all the weight of, well… an elephant.
1. White Blood Cells (2001)
Anybody who tries to tell you that White Blood Cells isn’t The White Stripes greatest album of all time is doing so purely trying to look cool.
There’s no need as this LP ranks as one of the finest rock albums of the 21st century. From the notorious opener ‘Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground,’ the precedent is set, and The White Stripes are ready to rip your face off.
That song, perhaps showcasing the band’s unique songwriting talent, then makes way for a charming indie-pop bop that wouldn’t look out of place at a Violent Femmes show. It’s the perfect example f the album’s duality. One side showcases White and the band as lovelorn romantics, trying to make it in a tough world. At the same time, the other side offers glimpses of the duo holding Molotov cocktails and ready to burn this chapel to the ground. ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ is the perfect match of both while ‘I’m Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman’ is very much smelling of petrol.
Across the board, the album is doused in the kind of powerhouse performance that proved The White Stripes to be the real deal. This album would prove to be a seminal moment for the group and launch their career in earnest.
When you add that to the potency of the songs at hand, you have a concoction that could knock over a whole town.