Friday, May 20, 2011

My Top 12 Songs of All-Time...Right Now: #9

The White Stripes
"Seven Nation Army"
Single from the album Elephant
Single Release Date: March 7, 2003
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Peak Position: 1
Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of the 2000s: 6
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time: 286
Pitchfork's Top 500 Songs of the 2000s: 30
2004 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song

Some songs are forever recognized by a singular guitar riff. When the opening to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” begins, it is instantly identifiable and infectious. Likewise, the seven-strum simplicity of the opening to “Seven Nation Army” permeates the entire song. Contrary to its sound, the riff was made using a guitar and not a bass, an instrument the band has never used. The White Stripes always made the simple combination of guitar and percussion seem so impressive and innovative, effortlessly crafting garage rock anthems, bluesy numbers and soft, acoustic songs. Their six-disc library should almost be considered in awe considering the unsophisticated method to their greatness. Their run of excellence is untarnished and almost mythical in a way, making their unexpected dissolution almost tolerable and understandable. When a band stops making music, their works are suddenly analyzed under a microscope as their place and impact on music history is determined. With or without this critical lens, “Seven Nation Army” will stand as The White Stripes’ magnum opus in a sea of excellent songs.

Beginning quite literally bare bones, the verses slowly add some minimal percussion until the two collide into encapsulating guitar solos. In fact, this raucous axework is, for all intents and purposes, the chorus of the song, punctuating the verses with that skeletal introductory riff amplified to eleven. The song as a whole really is a thing of beauty, but more importantly it is the definition of an “air guitar” song, subconsciously inducing headbanging regardless of location. The early 2000s saw a garage rock revival littered with a myriad of “The” bands of varying quality. Not only did The White Stripes outlast and out succeed, they stand in a class of their own, both in their genre and in the greater confines of rock music.

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