Four 7″ From The White Stripes

This week, Mills Record Company has four of the five singles from The White Stripes‘ 2003 album, Elephant. Elephant was the first album of The White Stripes that I heard, so these 7″ hold a special place in my heart’s musical history. But aside from that bit of quaintness, the four songs (“Seven Nation Army,” “Hardest Button to Button,” “There’s No Home For You Here,” and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”) are some of the most iconic songs from the Detroit duo’s long career.

“Seven Nation Army,” with its minimal floor tom beat and hypnotically simple guitar riff verse and explosive chorus, is still a mainstay 12 years after its release. Whether it’s the interplay between soft and loud song parts that gives “Seven Nation Army” its punch or Jack White’s electrifyingly shrill fills is up for debate. But it is undeniable that the song has a deep well of power. The song can blast from a stadium’s echoing PA or someone’s laptop without losing its primal drive.

The video for “Seven Nation Army” does a great job highlighting the very deliberate aesthetic The White Stripes put forth. Geometric without being obnoxious, color-coordinated and simple, the band presents itself with a visual flair that complements the bare-bones passion of their music. As shown below, these two elements mesh well in live performances. The duo’s energy is hardly containable on stage and their presentation gives their music a sense of spectacle–even while playing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” a song that doesn’t come to mind immediately when I think of powerful songs by The White Stripes.

“Hardest Button to Button,” in addition to ruling the radio for a good part of my formative years, has one of the best video concepts of all time–I remember the first time I saw it and was totally entranced. Its simple repetition of instruments across a cityscape nods both to the band’s visual geometry as well as acts as self-effacing joke (playing off their repetitious song structures). These visuals combine with enigmatic lyrics to make something that is better than either one separate.

The final of the four 7″ is “There’s No Home For You Here,” which has grown on me as the years have passed. When I first heard it as a teenager, I couldn’t classify the song neatly, which made me (in hindsight) very uncomfortable. The song vacillated between whispered verses and discordant choruses. The jumping between tones seemed too stark for me. But as I grew older, it began to appeal to me more and more. The melodies of the verse were catchy and complicated, and the shifts in intensity seemed to mirror the turmoil of past/ex loves.

These four singles from Elephant seem to be the perfect addition to any fan or acolyte to The White Stripes’ army. Further, they will also work well to tide us all over for The White Stripes’ Record Store Day SpecialGet Behind Me Satan on vinyl for the first time.

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