I really wanted to not fall for it, I really wanted to be able to stand back and scoff at it. I've done so for a while now, very successfully. And in the end, what did I do? In the end I went and bought the White Stripes new album Elephant. And I really enjoy it.
I have a hard time getting involved in anything while the hype-machine is in heavy operation - which is certainly the case for the White Stripes for the past, oh, 18 months or so. The problem, I find, is that a "new thing" is a fairly fragile entity in my world, and as much as I enjoy it, it may not take much to knock it out of my favor. Overhearing a single song can do it. The catchy hook being hung on every MTV ad can do it, having been gutted from the song as a sort of icon. Just hearing too much, too much about the band can do it - the "everywhere I turn, there they are" phenomenon is particularly lethal.
I admitted to myself a long time ago that there might be something in the White Stripes for me to enjoy. I hold an love of the scratchy, lo-fi, high-energy rock of the late sixties - so when I started hearing more and more about this new wave of bands emulating that sound, I was immediately intrigued. Then MTV latched onto it. Even if they wouldn't show the videos, they sure liked to talk about them a lot. It was enough to put me off of them for a while. These bands needed to battle it out for a while and I needed to let the hype machines of each die down a little before I dove in on any of them. For good music, I can wait.
Wait I did. It was hard to escape the constant barrage of news on music sites about work on the Stripes' new album, accompanied by the usual mention of Jack White's possible-sister/possible-ex-wife Meg. The latter is what really caught my attention. It's not the fact that some odd relationship between the two was being used as cannon-fodder for the gossip columnists, it's the fact that Jack White has continued to simply let it run its course - with a knowing smile. It's obvious that the truth is that this is just a fun joke he's content to leave be. His handling of what could be a key publicity generator (bad publicity being as good as - or better than - good publicity, afterall) was what really intrigued me. It was that knowing smile - never really seen but heard, or understood, in every statement the band has put forth.