As I said in yesterday’s review of Icky Thump, the White Stripes are a weird, ideosyncratic little band. So in today’s installment of “White Stripes Nova Scotia Invasion Week 2007,” I’ve put together an incomplete and unauthoritative list of just a few of the examples of their awesome ridiculousness.
Continuing to act as brother and sister
Jack and Meg brought mystery and intrigue back to rock and roll, encouraging gossip about whether or not they were actually brother and sister. In their interviews and at their concerts they always stuck to their story, but in the Internet age it didn’t take long for word to get around that Jack and Meg were actually a divorced husband and wife. But what’s great is that five years later, they’re still pretending to be brother and sister even though everyone knows it’s a sham. That’s commitment to a gimmick.
Showing off a Tesla coil
In 2003, director Jim Jarmusch released Coffee and Cigaretes,a collection of short films that he had shot over a period of several years. It’s a ridiculously bizarre set of stories, and Jack and Meg get one of the weirdest with “Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil.” It sounds dirty, but it’s not a euphemism – Jack actually has a Tesla coil in the short, showing Meg its awe-inspiring electrical effects. What makes this sketch awesome is that it’s completely within the realm of reason that Jack White would own a Tesla coil.
Credit to Calum for picking up this one – the Stripes have a tradition of including a song on every album with the word “Little” in the title. There’s “Little People,” “Little Bird,” “Little Room,” “Little Acorns,” “Little Ghost,” and “Little Cream Soda.” Even better, these are some of the most bizarre and strange songs in the band’s discography – “Little Room,” for example, is a 50 second drum-and-vocals riff, “Little Acorns” has a minute-long sampled vocal intro from some local news broadcast, and “Little Ghost” is a country jam about falling in love with a specter.
Releasing a record that almost no one can hear
This one’s a personal favourite of mine. During the ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ tour, the band sold 1,000 copies of a three-inch vinyl record called Top Special. The discs were only playable on Bandai-manufactured Triple Inchophone record players. Here’s what makes this wonderfully bizarre – legend has it that there were only 400 Triple Inchophone machines in the world when these records went on sale.
Touring every province and territory in Canada
Finally, we have behaviour so bizarre that I didn’t believe it when word first surfaced. What the White Stripes are attempting this summer is pretty much unprecedented – a tour that plays in all ten provinces and all three territories in Canada. The only band of their stature that attempted anything close to such a feat in modern times was Pearl Jam, and they missed New Brunswick, PEI and the territories. To play in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit is a level of dedication to small-market fans that few other acts demonstrate when putting their tour itineraries together. It’s crazy, but it’s crazy in that best of ways.