1+1=3 

Part Gorie-fied garage shamanism and part beglittered T-Rex/Zeppelin splatter, White Stripes is – in a word – primitive. The good news is the Detroit twosome – Jack and Meg White – possesses the untamable element that revs the heart rate instead of turning the stomach with the sour fruit vestiges of Motor City stereotypes and classic rock muses.

After all, even with all the New Millennial striving of electronic formats, that stuff still grows on trees. And it’s because most musicians get to their roots – or someone else’s – without knowing how to be inspired by them. In worst case scenarios they end up mimicking them, twisting them up into radio-friendly pretzels that make hearing Hendrix on a Burger King commercial seem normal.

At just 23, Jack has a great theory behind his music: Keep it simple.

"When we started, our objective was to be as simple as possible," Jack says. "Meg’s sound is like a little girl trying to play the drums and doing the best she can. Her playing on ‘The Big 3 Killed My Baby’ is the epitome of what I like about her drumming. It’s just hits over and over again. It’s not even a drumbeat – it’s just accents."

Like the unassuming charm of the red-and-white striped candy pictured on the Stripes’ two self-titled 7" singles – on Italy Records – their music has elements you can still count. In fact, Jack, a guy with a penchant for certain colors and numbers, prefers you do that in threes.

"That’s a big thing for me," Jack says. "It came out the most on ‘The Big 3 Killed My Baby.’ It’s three chords and three verses, and we accent threes together all through that. It was a number I always thought of as perfect, or our attempt at being perfect. Like on a traffic light, you couldn’t just have a red and a green. I work on sculptures too, and I always use three colors."

Jack and Meg cut their chaos into big, graspable pieces, never getting too complicated or calculated where they can afford to be impulsive. And that’s nearly everywhere, from the above-cited, three-ply factory dirge about the auto industry to "Lafayette Blues," a song about the French street names in Detroit.

"I was talking to some friends from New York the other day," Jack says. "And they were saying Detroit is a ghost town. But Iggy Pop said in Detroit you’re one in a hundred; in New York or LA, you’re one in a million."

Sure, another band from Detroit, sounding Detroit and nodding to Detroit, might be about as alluring as an interactive tour of Zug Island – not only a drag, but also a health hazard. But – and you have to hear it to believe it – the Stripes’ self-titled debut (due out this summer on Sympathy for the Record Industry) serves better to remind us that local identity has more options than a membership card to the latest cliché (Red Wings, anyone?) or a one-way ticket to the coast.

And if, after all that, White Stripes falls short of being the Jesus to rock ’n’ roll’s Lazarus, so be it. In some living room, somewhere in this town, their music will at least rekindle the excitability of someone who still gets a thrill out of raw talent gone this beautifully and youthfully awry. Norene Cashen writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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