Posts Tagged ‘The White Stripes Vs. The Black Keys’

The White Stripes Vs. The Black Keys

The Beatles Vs. The Stones, Blur Vs. Oasis and now The White Stripes Vs. The Black Keys!  The great band battles of all time are heating up as Detroit’s Jack White called out Akron’s Dan Auerbach, calling him an asshole and saying that he’s ripped off everything he’s ever done.  Why Jack? Because there was two of you in a band together, and they also have two people in a band?  Well in that case Jack White I think The White Stripes have actually been ripping off Local H for years, who have been ripping off Death From Above for years.  Not to mention everyone rips off everyone.

What’s more humorous is that it seems the fight stems from the fact that Jack doesn’t want his kid attending the same school as Dan’s kid.  I wonder if one dresses all in red and the other all in black every day…hum…

That being said I think they’re both fantastic musicians, and have been in fantastic bands, but I wonder….who writes the better music?  The Black Keys have “officially” been around since 2001, while Jack White began his career with The White Stripes about four years early.  Their debut albums are two years apart.  For the sake of simplicity here I’m taking a look at only his work with The White Stripes (assuming if any this is the big “rip-off” he’s talking about) Here’s to taking a deeper look at both acts and how they stack up.

Round 1: The Debut Album

The White Stripes – The White Stripes – 1999 release

The Stripes debut album is 17 tracks of blistering alt/blues rock showcasing the band’s unique take on one of the purest forms of music.  It was something new and different, and here was this brother/sister or husband/wife duo dressed all in red and white and throwing it down.  A great idea and concept, but the album doesn’t hold up over time.

The Black Keys – The Big Come Up – 2002 release

Both albums were recorded in the most minimalist way, but there’s more heart and soul to The Big Come Up and it’s a more focused and bluesy album with a sense of urgency. The White Stripes has some great songs but is more filler than killer.

Point goes to The Black Keys 1-0


Round 2: The Sophomore Slump?

For the record neither of these bands experienced the sophomore slump.  The Stripes were about to pick up the most momentum, but The Keys were starting to make some serious waves in the music scene.  The second album has ended the careers of many bands down the road, showing they are one trick ponies.  That’s not the case here.

The White Stripes – De Stilj – 2000 release.

De Stilj is probably one of the great sophomore releases of last decade.  The White Stripes went from presenting their sound and style to the world, to actually creating an album, and paying attention to the details of doing so. Start to finish this has some serious gems on it, and it shows a gigantic leap of talent from their debut.

The Black Keys – Thickfreakness – 2003 release

Thickfreakness is essential the exact same album as The Big Come Up, and was recorded in the exact same way in drummer Patrick Carney’s basement.  A raw, stripped back version of the Blues.  It’s a great album, but by no means is it De Stilj.

 Point goes to The White Stripes 1-1

Round 3: Completing the Trilogy

I’ve always felt that for a large number of bands their work is defined within the first three albums of their work.  Sure they will go on to make more, and perhaps better albums but they will most likely be remembered for those first three.

A male and female stand are pestered by black silhouettes in front of a brick wall on what appears to be snowy ground. A black border outlines the artwork. Dominant colors are red, black, and white.

The White Stripes – White Blood Cells – 2001 release

The Stripes have The Keys beat here.  They show a clear line of evolution with each album getting better than the next, and their third album White Blood Cells is their masterpiece.  They were seen and heard everywhere because of their hit Fell In Love With A Girl, but the album is FILLED with songs like these.  Catchy hook after catchy hook.

The Black Keys – Rubber Factory – 2004 release

For the most part the Keys made the same album three times over, and actually looking at their fourth release Magic Potion four times over.  They are essential all the same album, the same solid album through and through, but essential the same.  Their evolution as a band was about to happen.  They started to pick up some serious steam through the course of albums three and four, and a lot of people were about to realize that Akron, OH wasn’t just where Lebron James was from.

Point goes to The White Stripes 2-1 

Round 4: The Next Wave

Magic Potion essential fits directly in line with Rubbery Factory and I think those two albums work together as the end of one period for The Black Keys.  A new period opens for them with Attack and Release as does The White Stripes – Elephant.

The White Stripes – Elephant – 2003

By this time critics from Rolling Stone and Spin where so far up The Stripes asses I thought they’d make them irrelevant in a matter of days.  White Blood Cells had made the band a household name by now.  The album starts out massively strong with Seven Nation Army, Black Math, and There’s No Home For You Here and continues with some of the great songs in the Stripes catalog.  Elephant is one hell of an album.

The Black Keys – Attack and Release – release 2008

Leaps and bounds above anything The Keys had done up until now.  Attack and Release is easily one of their best, if not their best album.  Lot’s of times you heard the term sell-out thrown at bands that bring in big time producers and try and smooth their sound out.  Danger Mouse took everything that was great about the band and shines it up just enough to make them sound fresh, and new, and to evolve their sound into the band they would become. A+  This is close, and I mean real close, but I think Elephant has just a few mis-fires, where Attack and Release is pretty much flawless.

Point goes to The Black Keys 2-2 (barely)

Round 5: The Evolution

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan – release 2005

For the record I can’t stand this album.  I think it’s easily The White Stripes worst.  It starts out with the amazing Blue Orchid and has two great ballads in Forever For Her, and I’m Lonely, but other than that it’s filled with amateurish throwaways.  Critics loved it because they felt they were supposed to, but it doesn’t make the album any better.

The Black Keys – Brothers – release 2010

The inclusion of single Tighten Up immediately beats anything that exists on Get Behind Me Satan.  Brothers shows an even more strip-backed version of The Keys song-writing.  It shows a lot of depth and pain in that process as well.  I think it’s their most human of albums, something that doesn’t even really exist on Get Behind Me Satan.

Point goes to The Black Keys 3-2

Round 6: Legacy and Influence

The White Stripes – Icky Thump – release  2007

I actually think Icky Thump is a glorious return to form and a fantastic album, however I think The Stripes are still operating on the same level as they always have and not evolving as artists in any way.  It’s a great send-off to a great band, but The Keys have them beat here.

The Black Keys – El Camino – release 2011

I think El Camino is hands down The Keys best album.  It’s hit after hit and brings everything together for the band.  I will say I will find it hard for the band to top this release, but it just shows them going to the next level, and I think it’s a level that The White Stripes never saw in their tenure.

Point goes to The Black Keys…winner 4-2

Jack White closed shop on The White Stripes in 2011 with their last album coming in 2007.  He chose to move on with a solo career and his work in both The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, both bands of which I’m a big fan of.  The Black Keys continue on, and their sound and music continues to get better and move forward.  They’ve evolved more than The White Stripes ever could, but then again that was never Jack White’s intention.  I’m sure we’ll see a resurgence from them at some point in their career, but as far as I see it right now The Black Keys entire body of work is better than theirs.

The biggest question, and accusation from Jack White, is that without him and The White Stripes there would be no Black Keys.  Is that true?  Absolutely not.  The White Stripes are a band that evolved early and then stopped.   They formed their band on the basics of the blues and rock n’ roll, and they did it well during their time together.  The Black Keys however are a band that are built on those same fundamentals, but wanted to mature and become greater than that.  Both bands basically took variations of the blues and made them their own.  If anything The Black Keys are much closer to the roots of the blues, which I feel gives them a little bit more depth. They’ve become successful in doing that, and for that reason alone they are a better band.