Anyone who grew up in the 80s or 90s likely had one or both of the following greatest hits collections: Steve Miller Band’s “Greatest Hits 1974-1978” and “Legend: …
Anyone who grew up in the 80s or 90s likely had one or both of the following greatest hits collections: Steve Miller Band’s “Greatest Hits 1974-1978” and “Legend: The best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.”
Other fine “greatest hits” collections have come along, but the time when they were essential artist recordings that defined an era are long gone. Part of that has been the fact that many recording artists resist the collections for the implication that the artist’s best work is now behind them. The other thing is that the album is increasingly an artifact of the past. Who needs recorded collections when the same is as easy as dialing up a playlist on Spotify.
It should come as no surprise, however, that the White Stripes, a band steeped in the sounds of eras past, have chosen the end of 2020 for a career-defining, 26-track greatest hits collection called “My Sister Thanks You and I Thank You.”
Jack White’s seminal White Stripes – a garage-rocking guitar and drum duo – almost single-handedly launched the Garage Rock era in the late 90s, achieving remarkable success with the band’s third album, “White Blood Cells” in 2001. For the next decade, he and bandmate Meg White (his ex-wife, not sister) charted the course for a lot of bands that followed their stripped-down, blues and punk-infused rock with some of the best songs of the era: “Fell in Love with a Girl,” “Hardest Button to Button,” “Hotel Yorba” and Seven Nation Army.” Dozens of garage rock outfits and rock and pop duos followed in their wake.
White’s entire recording career has arguably been steeped in rock nostalgia, but the White Stripes were particularly backward-looking. The band’s sound was equal parts post-war Chicago blues and the proto-punk sound of Detroit rock pioneers The Stoog.es and The MC5. To gather up a collection of singles and a few rare releases could almost be seen as one more nod to those influences.
This collection will likely have everything all but the most ardent fans of the band want. And they’re nicely arranged as the band might arrange a setlist rather than a chronological chart of singles. The question really isn’t “Is the collection good?” It’s more “Is it worth it?”
That’s a tougher question to answer. It’s nice to imagine high schoolers today queuing the album up on Spotify and discovering what all the fuss was about. For the young person interested in guitar, the album might be a great place to start. White’s ability to be compelling with nothing but his electric guitar and the bare-bones beats of Meg is remarkable on its own, let alone his competence as a musician.
So yes, White Stripes’ Greatest Hits is a nice reminder of the band’s place in rock after the turn of the century for those who were there the first time or for those who could use the introduction.