Detroit’s White Stripes embark on world domination
By Phil Wise
It wasn’t so long ago that Detroit was the butt of all jokes. Everyone from Jay Leno and David Letterman to the writers of Kentucky Fried Movie were taking whacks at the Motor City. But it seems times have changed and Jack and Meg White of Motown’s own White Stripes are laughing now.
Not in recent memory has an indie band commanded so much attention as the White Stripes. With mentions in Entertainment Weekly, Time and twice in Rolling Stone, the White Stripes seem to be America’s sweethearts—or peppermint lollypops. Now the Stripes are taking their red and white fleet to the UK and finding the fickle British music press more than willing to sign on for a ride.
Last week’s NME had a one-page, full-color spread of Jack and Meg soaked in their Detroit sweat and signature red trousers. The headline screamed “White Noise, White Heat” as a double nod to Detroit’s only political/musical movement of worth, The White Panthers, and to the White Stripes’ Velvet Underground-influenced affinity for stripped-down jams. By reading the gushing write up you’d think Jack White was the second coming of Wayne Kramer, not the snotty little brother of John Spencer. But that was just a shot over the bow.
The coup de grace has this week’s NME features our heroes on the cover and declares them the “Sound of NOW!” How do they do it? I’m a fan of the Stripes and wish them all the best, but how have they seduced the media to the point of turning mild-mannered Arts & Entertainment editors into multi-national spinmasters?
The White Stripes have pulled off a major marketing coup with this media assault and the rewards could be great, but dancing with the British media can also be dangerous. If you thought the American media’s treatment of Milli Vanilla was bad, you should have seen what the NME and now defunct Melody Maker did to Johnny Marr when he left the Smiths. You’d have thought he killed Paul Weller!
So forge on, White Stripes, and find your fortune on the high seas. But beware the English congeniality, for even the great Spanish Armada met its brutal match at the hands of a British gentleman.