Though The White Stripes helped to pioneer the garage rock renaissance of the early 2000s, their bizarre aesthetic often (intentionally) distracted from the ingenious minimalist blues pumping through their Sears amps. Frontman Jack White has often stated that the color scheme and childlike mannerisms of the band were meant to juxtapose the music they played, and to reinforce blues as the people’s genre, interpretable in literally any way. Whether due to freakish sonic experimentation or unintelligible riddles for lyrics, here are their ten quirkiest songs.
10. “I Think I Smell A Rat”
Jack’s lyrics are often aimed at hypocrisy and entitlement, and that’s probably what this song is about too. That or the White residence had a pest issue.
9. “Little People”
The Stripes mostly outgrew their weirdness after Elephant, so you can be damn sure their first record was full of it. “Little People” imagines random, somewhat disturbing vignettes of what children do in their downtime – like playing with spiders or sleeping with tigers.
8. “Black Math”
The super catchy power chord riffage in “Black Math” often distracts from the anti-STEM message at its core. We know Jack hasn’t always been the biggest fan of K-12 – he was brought up in Catholic school and almost went to seminary – but this is a little much!
7. “The Hardest Button To Button”
Otherwise known as “the White Stripes song from that one episode of The Simpsons.” Besides the awesome dabbling in bass and righteously furious cymbal bashing, “The Hardest Button To Button” pretty casually glosses over the topics of kidnapping, voodoo, and space-age technology.
Some have posited that “Astro” is also about hypocrisy, given the disdaining nod to Thomas Edison (#TeamTesla). But it could just be a weird dance move that only Detroitians know about.
5. “Rag And Bone”
Put simply, this is the greatest spoken word Jack has ever put to tape (yes, even considering “Old Mary”). He and Meg go on a thrifting adventure that would put Macklemore to shame, and Meg learns a valuable lesson about the line between stealing and borrowing.
4. “Let’s Build A Home”
Few things in life are as ~quirky~ as children’s poetry, as demonstrated by the short intro to “Let’s Build A Home”. Other than that it’s a pretty straightforward chunk of Stripes randomness, but to write a song about a kid’s poem is pretty cool in and of itself. Plot twist: the kid at the beginning is a young Jack, whose family members are prompting him to sing a song about putting the Devil in a box. Is it any wonder he turned out the way he did?
3. “Little Room”
Speaking of architecture, this is a 30 second song about rooms of varying sizes and is probably a metaphor about the band growing in popularity. But it’s also a 30 second song about rooms of varying sizes.
No self-respecting musician hasn’t, at one point or another, sung into a Wurlitzer. So here is proof that the White Stripes are self-respecting musicians: “Aluminum” consists of Jack and Meg yelling “AAAAHHHH” over a distorted freakshow riff. It is abstract to say the least.
1. “Lafayette Blues”
My personal favorite Stripes song of them all, “Lafayette Blues” simply has Jack singing all of Detroit’s French street names over a manic punk beat. This is the embodiment of the band’s quest to mix the absurd with the fist-pumping, and it works perfectly.
Though originally from Virginia, Kelsey recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a cavalcade of neat degrees. She's written for other sites like Wide Open Country, Half Past, Seeing Trees Music, The Cropper, InfUSion Magazine, and Blurt. Kelsey’s greatest weakness is a large bowl of pho, and though she doesn’t know it yet, her friends will soon host a soup intervention for her. In her spare time she enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, crafting dad-humor puns, collecting vintage key chains, writing long lists that utilize the Oxford comma, and acting like Larry David.