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I'm Finding it Harder to be a Gentleman

Saying anything else about The White Stripes seems gratuitous. This post-punk, garage blues duo from Detroit who claim to be brother and sister (despite rumors that they are actually ex-spouses) have been critically praised in dozens of publications in the past month.

The New York Times called frontman and guitarist Jack White the most exciting songwriter since Kurt Cobain. The Village Voice had this to say: "White Stripes are the most sincere and thus un-lame band so far this century." And the list goes on from Rolling Stone, to NME, to Pitchfork by our very own Dan Kilian, all praising the work of this duo that seemingly came from nowhere.

But is it overexposure? I think not, because this band is everything you have heard and more. Simply stated, they fucking rock. Jack's relationship to drummer Meg White may be a mystery, but her minimal, just-learned-the drums-last-week style accentuates his guitar work perfectly. They have the chemistry of lovers and the rawness of siblings.

With the release of White Blood Cells, The White Stripes have created the best record so far this year. It is at once an homage to traditional blues, the seventies guitar rift, British punk rock, and there is even a little pre-sucking Jon Spencer thrown in to boot. Jack White has an amazing vocal range that varies from a melodic baritone, to a raging scream, to a silly falsetto and all 3 styles work wonderfully since the band tends to mix it up on their records by including ballads alongside their rockers.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the band is Jack White's lyrical devotion to themes rarely encountered in rock music. I always thought rock and roll—and the blues for that matter—were about getting pussy and having your heart broken. At least that's what Mick Jagger, Robert Johnson, and Robert Plant always sang about. Jack White's favorite themes are getting married and being devoted to family. There is no kitsch or irony to be found here, just a sincerity and a disdain for misogyny that is rarely, OK never, found within the genre.

White Bloods Cells is a much more solid record than there previous outing DJ Stijl which was an excellent record in and of itself. Granted, I miss the slide guitar and the more traditional blues feel of their last record, but on White Blood Cells The White Stripes have perfected their unique sound and created something that shows their influences but also stands alone.

Dressed in their signature red and white, the band recently played a free show on the 13th street pier (you know, the place where the Titanic set sail) and the show was all that fans had hoped it would be. The weather was a perfect 72 degrees with a nice, cool breeze and the crowd witnessed a beautiful sunset over the Hudson as a backdrop.

The very British Invasion sounding The Greenhornes opened the show and were a wonderful surprise. Despite looking like rejects from Almost Famous, the band played 40 minutes of music that had me begging for an encore. Staple New York band Mooney Suzuki were a little less than adequate, but their showmanship (lots of banter with the crowd and synchronized jumping) made them pleasant enough.

When The White Stripes finally took the stage beneath a rising moon, the packed crowd went nuts and with good reason. The band never relies on studio produced gimmickry, and their live show was as energetic, raw, and as exciting as any in recent memory. Jack and Meg were in perfect synchronization and clearly excited to be playing in New York to such an enthusiastic crowd. Highlights included the rocking and very Zeppelin sounding "Hello Operator" and the wonderful slide guitar driven "Little Bird." They played until they had to leave (10 o'clock curfew at the pier) but this reviewer left satisfied, even if I still don't know if Jack and Meg are siblings or lovers. At least my relationship with The White Stripes as a huge fan is clearly defined.

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