The White Stripes Quash Excitement About A Reunion By Actually Reuniting

Feb 23rd, 2009 // 23 Comments


We’ve all missed the White Stripes. The more time we had to appreciate them, the more valuable their particular transcendent weirdness seemed, the more unique their particular chemistry. And it’s a good shorthand symbol for Conan O’Brien’s appeal that he got Meg and Jack to reunite and play “We’re Going To Be Friends” on his final show as host of Late Night. But here’s the thing: they were horrible.



Why were they so horrible? Who knows? Maybe Jack was trying to make people appreciate the Raconteurs more, or maybe he’s taken his Dylan fixation to such a level that he decided to blow out his voice. Certainly Meg was in the later stages of her pregnancy, which would make it hard to play a kit, but why didn’t they give her some stand-up toms or something? I bet girl could rock a set of timbales. She wasn’t the problem, though; everything was the problem, from Jack’s singing to an absolute lack of connection between the two. The gesture was lovely, but the execution kinda tanked it.

The White Stripes – We’re Going To Be Friends [YouTube]

  1. SteveLepore

    It was such a shame, Conan seemed so grateful that they’d show up, only to have them let him down like that.

  2. SteveLepore

    It was a such a shame, Conan seemed genuinely grateful that they did it, yet they let him down.

  3. SteveLepore

    @SteveLepore: Sorry, didn’t see the first one come up immediately, so posted again. What a dunce I am.

  4. Anonymous

    Yikes.

    Counselors of the Lonely was the worst thing that either Jack White or Brendan Benson had ever done, and this does not bode well for the next White Stripes release (which would come out this year, if I had my druthers).

  5. unperson

    >We’ve all missed the White Stripes.

    Who is this “we” you speak of?

  6. sicksteanein

    When I saw this, I remember placing blame solely on Meg. Jack was carrying the song and Meg’s doubled vocals were off every time.

  7. tigerpop

    @Thesemodernsocks: Really? I rather liked Consolers.

    But yeah, this performance was bad. Jack looked like he was wincing whenever he tried to swallow. Might have been a throat infection. That explains his voice. The playing was another thing altogether.

  8. Anonymous

    Cool so we now know that Meg can’t play the drums and the guitar. I wonder how many other musical instruments she can’t play

  9. silkyjumbo

    weird – except for a handful of songs, this is what they sound like to me all of the time.

  10. brasstax

    @MhS: Bah! I like the way Meg drums.

  11. Tauwan

    @Thesemodernsocks:

    Thank you. I am glad somebody said it. I have yet to listen to that album past You Don’t Understand Me, or at least I can’t remember the last time I went past track four or five (or pressed play on the disc for that matter).

  12. Chris Molanphy

    That was a big favor to Conan, clearly.

    The longtime rumor is that, if it were up to Meg, there’d be no more anything from the Stripes heretofore: no recordings, no performances, nothing. The Racs basically exist to give Jack a careful transition to the next thing when the time comes that he can’t get her out of the house anymore and the Stripes “brand” dies.

    Here, Jack sounds just rusty, not irredeemable — he’s awful in the first half, but his voice actually starts to resolve itself on the final verse (when he’s playing by himself, natch). Meg is out of her depth.

    I have been a Meg defender in the past; I acknowledge her primitive skills, but on all the Stripes records through Satan, I think her primitivism is integral to the sound and structure of the music.

    But it’s a sound whose time, I am increasingly realizing, is passing, like all great rock sounds that define their time (for them, the first half of the 2000s). Given the mediocreness of the Icky Thump album — still can’t believe that got so many Top 10 mentions in ’07 — I feel like the Stripes need to leave it alone for a while, see if they miss that sound or their chemistry and come back around 2012 at the earliest.

    In short, that wasn’t just a farewell to Late Night Conan. That may well have been their own eulogy.

  13. Figgsrock

    Meg’s pregnant? Really? I guess I need to watch the performance again, but I thought she looked just like the last time I saw them play a couple years ago.

  14. dyfl

    @Chris Molanphy: This was exactly what I was thinking: Jack was singing like he was going to cry at any moment, and I think it was because he understood that this was the last-ever White Stripes performance. I actually really, really appreciated the performance for that reason, it felt very real to me. I was honestly a little touched.

  15. Ted Striker

    FWIW, I did like the new arrangement of “We Are Going To Be Friends”, but the execution was absolutely brutal.

  16. annkpowers

    I recently had separate conversations with musicians I respect, Jon Brion and Matt Ward, and both vigorously defended Meg’s drumming. They both talked about how hard it is for someone to follow a player like Jack and how she just kept herself glued to his every move and delivered. Made me rethink her as a drummer, I’d always been a detractor….

  17. Anonymous

    The rest of you can defend her “drumming” all you want. The fact is that she makes my ears bleed. (I notice no one’s even bothering to defend her awful vocals.)

  18. anumberofnames

    They are clearly trying to replicate the Neil/Jennifer-only Royal Trux performance at the Cuba Libre benefit in D.C. circa 97 or 98. I think it’s great.

  19. superfluoüs_umlaut

    I guess I’m in the minority but I thought that was actually pretty cool. It was weird, and gothic, and raw, and spooky. Kinda like the White Stripes used to be before Jack’s classic rocker tendencies began to creep in. And aside from the ropey singing (which I thought rather added to the charm), what exactly was “horrible” about the performance? I mean, Meg was just using a guitar to do the same primitive percussion shtick she does on the drums, right?

  20. Halfwit

    I think it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a “reunion,” but just a favor to a close friend. As such, it was a rag-tag mess of a performance, but I think it was fitting for a rag-tag mess of a show. Conan really appreciated it, and I had a sad near the end of the song. That’s enough for me.

  21. riffraff

    vid was taken down =( i has a sad. from one big stripes fan good to see them back together. maybe they took it down because the were offended by your review… nah. never mind… ill find it somewhere where they wont profit from ads…

  22. Anonymous

    @SteveLepore: Conan said, “that meant the world to me” and his comment sounded heartfelt. I don’t know why you think he was let down unless he told you. Conan’s show is quintessentially amateurish and childish and this is probably why the White Stripes appeal to him. I’m not calling the White Stripes amateurs by any means, except Meg can be considered amateurish, but their whole sound is based around a child-like, ramshackle attitude to playing music mixed in with some great lyrics and catchy riffs. Conan knows and appreciates this, so I doubt he minded their performance. I think We’re Going to Be Friends is his favorite of theirs and he most likely requested it and it was played in the style of his lullaby. So I think their performance was tailored for Conan, Jack’s voice is just in bad shape. So no I don’t think Conan was let-down.

  23. Figgsrock

    @Leeshay:
    Coan did an interview with Rolling Stone where he said “We’re Going to Be Friends” was one of his favorite songs ever, and that he would play it on guitar during tense rehearsals.

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