Best tunes of 2001: #3 The White Stripes “Fell in love with a girl”

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In 2001 and 2002, garage rock emerged to take the mantle as champion of the indie rock resurgence. The epicentres of the revival were New York, whose scene was led by Interpol and The Strokes (appearing at #5 on this list), and Detroit, from which came The Detroit Cobras and The White Stripes.

Yep. Before Third Man Records, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and a rather notable solo career, Jack White was in a little band called The White Stripes. Formed in 1997 with then wife, Meg, whose last name Jack took when they wed, the duo recorded six albums together before disbanding in 2011. The White Stripes became known for their tightly stylized image – they were most notably rigorous in the use of their red, white, and black colour scheme – and their blues-inflected sound, Meg’s stomping, bass heavy beats, and Jack’s raunchy guitars and raw vocals. Indeed, as things went on, they became less connected with their garage rock roots and more about blues revival.

Interesting, then, that their breakthrough came with their least blues-influenced album, their third, “White blood cells”, and this exciting single that had no traces of it whatsoever. “Fell in love with a girl” sounds like it was it borne out of the garage that welded together the pieces of the garage that housed the rock. It’s a quick adrenaline blip that doesn’t even make the two minute mark. At that length, you can almost hear Jack screaming, “there’s no time for an intro – we gotta go!”. The drums are muddy as hell and violent, Meg channelling her inner animal. Jack even sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up with her and his own raucous guitar work with his vocals, almost breathless for the duration, his attempts at proper diction dispensed with and you have no trouble imagining his gummed up mic covered in spittle. There’s anger and disdain and the feeling of betrayal.

It’s almost exhausting how great this tune is. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2001: #4 Cake “Short skirt/long jacket”

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I can’t remember exactly how it came to be and at what points but for periods during our first years in Ottawa, Victoria’s mother loaned us one of her cars, a green cavalier. It had a tape deck in it but I only drove it to work irregularly so I rarely had tapes in the car. Thus, those early years here was probably one of the last periods in which I listened to the radio with any regularity. It didn’t take long before I found the city’s alternative rock station, which at the time was X FM (101.1, I think), and I likely found it with this particular song, Cake’s “Short skirt/long jacket”. Why do I think that? Because I feel like it was played on every morning that I commuted into the Enbridge call centre, my job at the time.

Cake is definitely one of those bands whose sound makes it easy to identify them. Ever since I first discovered the band with their raucous cover of “I will survive”, it never mattered if it was a song I had never heard before, whenever I came across something on the radio, whether at work, in the car, or in a store, I would smile and stop to listen to the rest. There’s always a heavy focus on the beat and a funky bass line, we usually get an explosion of trumpet, a rarity in rock music, and frontman John McCrea’s deep and deadpan sing/speak vocals. I loved all their singles through the latter part of the 90s but it wasn’t until this particular song that I finally declared myself a fan and went out to get one of their albums: “Comfort eagle”.

“Short skirt/long jacket” was the first single to be released off said album. It is the best of Cake, starting with that blare of trumpet, danceable drums and jumping bass, the rattle of vibraslap and regimented backing vocals. And John McCrea reading off a shopping list of attributes that he seemingly wants in girl but as the list gets longer, the girl gets more and more unattainable. This seems to be more the message to me: wants and desires and how they are always changing, making it all so impossible.

“She’s changing her name
From Kitty to Karen
She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron
I want a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket.”

Fittingly, this was their final song of the night, the first and only time I saw them live, a few years ago at Toronto Urban Roots Festival, having invited Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir! up on stage with them, making the song a riotous party, and in the process, I think, making fans of my concert buddies Tim and Mark, as well as everyone else in the audience.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2001: #5 The Strokes “Last nite”

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At number five on this Best tunes of 2001 list is the second single off The Strokes’ debut album “Is this it?”. Arguably, this song, the band, and this album were instrumental in plotting the ultimate direction of indie and alternative rock for the new millennium.

The Strokes formed in New York City in 1998. The five piece led by frontman Julian Casablancas recorded a raw and energetic EP in 2001 that started a bidding war amongst the majors. They ended up landing with RCA, who released the debut LP referred to above, a ten song juggernaut that was recorded with the same producer and same DIY ethos as the EP. To say that “Is this it?” generated a buzz is putting it mildly. There was unanimous acclaim. It appeared on everyone’s best of the year list and the band’s name was on everyone’s lips.

I remember them still being a hot item even a year later. It sticks out to me because I made a special trip to Peterborough in 2002 to visit my friends from university. On the morning-slash-early-afternoon after I arrived, the load of us walked down to The Only Cafe for brunch. This meal was particularly memorable, first of all, because it was a unique experience, given the socialist, trust-based business plan of the establishment and its mixed bag clientele, and second, due to “Is this it?” being played whilst we chewed on egg, toast, and crunchy coffee. Pretty much all of my friends recognized the album, despite the varied tastes, liked it and were effusive in their praise of the sound and the excitement with which it polluted the air all around.

“Last nite” is representative of the raw, driven energy, and the immediacy of the album. The production is purposefully not crisp, giving the impression (which is actually correct) that it was recorded live in one take, a loud broadcast from a shambolic garage. Indeed, it succeeds in presenting the band as from another age, finding itself lost in the present day, a time traveller from the past informing the present of its mistakes. Casablancas is a lounge singing Lou Reed, half-heartedly trying to keep up with the song’s pace, and the band is keeping it simple, like pop music, if said pop music were roughly hewn from a rusty old carving knife.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.