LegendaryMonkey: In our continuing quest to convince the masses that the White Stripes are the heirs of all that is pure and good and absolute–
Generalissimo Alberto: …and that they should clench the world in their iron fists, imposing peace and justice.
LM: Right, right, rule the world, however you want it… anyway, in our quest to sway music fans everywhere to our cause, we present the White Stripes with a manifesto of their own:
“You’re Pretty Good Looking”
De Stijl, 2000
LM: The opening track from De Stijl, which is either the most loved or the most ignored album in the White Stripes catalogue, depending on who is talking about it, is a retro throwback to the time when rock was innocent and new. On the face, at least. The lyrics tell a different story, but we’ll get into that in a moment. The song is a sweet puff of sound, reminiscent of early Beatles and the Kinks. Of course, even when Jack and Meg are clearly riffing on an earlier musical theme, as they are here, they never quite slide fully into the mold, and the guitar opens on on “You’re Pretty Good Looking” in a way that we would have never heard back in the 1960s.
GA: This is raw pop. Early Kinks is just the right point of comparison. It’s a joining point where “pop” and “garage band” and “punk” all come back together. It’s a perfectly catchy, bouncy little radio friendly pop tune, with a purposeful tinge of crudity in the performance and recording. Those with less education in the subtlety of radical rhetoric than the leaders of this junta might understandably mistake this for lost Kinks circa 1963.
LM: But what I find particularly interesting here are the lyrics. Now, Alberto there is gonna tell you that mention of broken backs and futuristic dates means that this is a blueprint for the revolution at hand… that the proletariat (those of us with the broken backs) are gonna rise up and will have cemented power by 2525… but I see something completely different here.
GA: Our beloved revolutionary sweetheart struggles to unlock the deeply encoded insurgent messages from our Dear Leader’s pen, but she misses the mark. “You’re pretty good looking for a girl,” but as an insurrectionist leader of historical import, he and we don’t have time to indulge our personal romantic strategies.
Your back is being broken by The Man, by the oppression of the Bush regime. No personal issues can be addressed until this pressure is removed and enemies of the revolution such as Kenny Chesney have been Dealt With.
LM: Al, you better not be making threats over there. For those of you interested in logic…. This is tongue-in-cheek love song. The object of desire is too popular for her own good, and has let it go to her head… and Jack is telling her that while she’s a hottie and he would like to hit that, he’s not gonna get down on his knees and kiss her feet just because all the other boys do. And I say, right on!
This is an anthem TO feminism… ladies, if you want to be truly equal in all things, including relationships, you can’t hold a stable of boy toys and yet expect respect, no matter what Madonna and Sex in the City tells you. So sayeth the Monkeygirl, at least.
Oh yeah you’re pretty good looking for a girl
but your back is so broken
and this feelings still gonna linger on
until the year 2525 now
Yeah you’re pretty good looking for a girl
your eyes are wide open
and your thoughts have been stolen by the boys
who took you out and bought you everything you
GA: The White Stripes also get credit here for brevity. They make a whole song- complete with a bridge- and then get the hell out in 111 seconds. Concision is an underappreciated artistic virtue.
So many songs these days are compromised or ruined by just being drug out past the breaking point that the underlying composition can support. If you’ve got a three minute song, and you’re still playing it five or six minutes later- you’re losing rather than gaining points.
LM: Psst, Alberto — that’s the punk influence creeping in, my man. Short, simple, loud and sweet. That said….
Al Barger plots the overthrow of the government and his continuing crusade for Moorish dignity at More Things.