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Pop Music Review

White Stripes Pair Pounds Out Accomplished Country-Blues

March 03, 2001|NATALIE NICHOLS

You wouldn't expect Rolling Stone magazine to declare a group like the White Stripes a band to watch. After all, the Detroit-based, brother-sister duo works with only two instruments and one voice. But during their performance Thursday at Spaceland, the first of back-to-back sold-out nights, the two wrung more variety from their sound than many bands twice their size.

Singer-guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg White, both in their mid-20s, displayed a strong affinity for primitive country-blues that recalled the Cramps or the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But the dark-haired pair deftly altered the dynamics of their songs (drawn mostly from two albums released by Long Beach-based indie label Sympathy for the Record Industry), shifting easily from fuzzed-out garage-punk to Who-like mod-rockers to Eels-esque almost-pop.

Veering between two microphones, one with reverb for extra-intense psychedelic effect, Jack White made a compelling frontman, contorting his raw-edged near-wail with focused fervor. His folky, non-gender-reversed take on "Jolene," Dolly Parton's classic plea to a romantic rival, practically bled with desperation. Yet he also howled like a sex-crazed rockabilly cat on the original "Sister, Do You Know My Name?" and sneered playfully through the punk-pop number "You're Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)."

One could argue that the Whites might snare a wider audience if they at least added a bass player. But the songwriting quality and the nuanced presentation made this duo a uniquely fleshed-out act.

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