Like their simple candy-cane visual aesthetic, the White Stripes appear quite deliberately minimalist. Always dressed in red and white and adorning their records in that color scheme, the Stripes underscore the significance of their stark, direct sounds: most often just a crackling electric guitar and stomping drums backing Jack White's strong, emotive tenor voice. But, beneath their surface simplicity, the monochromatically styled Detroit brother-sister duo — guitarist/vocalist Jack White and drummer Meg White — have a streamlined musical sophistication. The White Stripes spat out their self-titled debut album on Sympathy for the Record Industry in June 1999, as well as a fistful of top-notch mid-fi garage rock singles that distance the duo from the tradition of underachiever slop-punk often passed off as rock 'n' roll revivalism. While the White Stripes' recordings are generally Spartan productions, the strength of Jack's glissando slide guitar playing, expressive vocals, and occasional piano and Meg's Troggs-styled lumbering beats defy the intentionally imposed limitations of the medium.
The pair's previous album slanted toward the crunch-laden rock 'n' rankle of the White Stripes' Motor City scene, comprised of such kindred spirits as the Dirtbombs, Demolition Doll Rods, and Detroit Cobras. However, the daring duo's phenomenal new album, DeStijl (Dutch for “the style”), truly establishes the White Stripes' talents, and sounds like outtake demos from Led Zeppelin III mixed with the sardonic whomp of the Oblivans and Royal Trux's revision of original sin. From time to time, Jack sounds so akin to a young Robert Plant it's startling; on “I'm Bound to Pack It Up,” Jack's ascending 12-string acoustic guitar riff clearly nods to Jimmy Page's signature syncopated strums. While a violin punctuates the melody, Jack flexes his upper-register range as he yearns for the sense of freedom in, um, winding on down that road. Elsewhere, the Whites further defy their garage rock reputation on the Paul McCartney-styled waltz-time acoustic guitar ballad “Apple Blossom,” and the downright pliant minor-key piano romp “Truth Doesn't Make a Noise.” Drawing attention to their limitations (no backing musicians, threadbare production budgets) with their potentially misleading aesthetic, the White Stripes boldly prove they have the talent and daring to be seductively simple.