But the duo themselves would rather put a positive spin on it: As they say in part in the statement on their official site (currently crashed by excessive pageviews), “The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to.”
With that in mind, EW has compiled an essential—if by no means comprehensive—playlist spanning the band’s nearly-fourteen-year career, from the raw basement bashings of their earliest Detroit days to their long and comparatively glossy run as Conan O’Brien’s unofficial house band. For links and more, read on:
“Seven Nation Army” (from 2003’s Elephant) Quite possibly the all-time classic Stripes riff—that seismic guitar line is the chorus—so why not start here?
“Fell in Love With a Girl” (from 2001’s White Blood Cells) .. And we fell in love with a band.
“Blue Orchid” (from 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan) Another mondo, unforgettable riff; the flower of our discontent.
“St. James Infirmary Blues” (from their self-titled 1999 debut, The White Stripes) A macabre folk traditional made famous by Louis Armstrong, and done over here as a cacophonous, see-saw creeper.
“Hello Operator” (from 2000’s De Stijl) Is Jack hitting on a telemarketer? Is he running from the IRS? Still don’t know.
“The Denial Twist” (Get Behind Me Satan) Sex on a slow-burn stick.
“We’re Going to be Friends” (White Blood Cells) Nearly a lullaby; the Stripes at their sweetest.
“Wasting My Time” (The White Stripes)) A man scorned—and yet, still hopeful (He’s hanging on the line!); another classic riff.
“I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” (Elephant) Written by Burt Bacarach, recorded by Dusty Springfield, and reconfigured with utter sincerity by the former spouses White.
“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” (White Blood Cells) Thrashing rock catharsis meets lawn-care psychosis. Bonus points for containing one of the band’s all-time great lines: “If you can hear a piano fall / You can hear me comin’ down the hall.”
“You’re Pretty Good Lookin’ for a Girl” (De Stilj) Really, you flatter us, Sir Jack.
“I Think I Smell a Rat” (White Blood Cells) We smell fantastic paranoia. And the perfect soundtrack to a Tarantino death scene that never was.
“Icky Thump” (2007’s Icky Thump) Watch your back, gringo: a deliciously malevolent Tijuana-noir travelogue.
“There’s No Home for You Here” (Elephant) Girl, get out. The most corrosive, dismissive relationship diss track ever.
You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)” (Icky Thump) Oh, but they know how to tell you what you don’t know, so well.
“Jolene” (originally released as a B-side to “Hello Operator”) Jack refuses to change the pronouns on Dolly Parton’s desperate hands-off-my-man plea, and doesn’t lose one iota of its scorching need.
“Ball and a Biscuit” (Elephant) Is there any chance at all this song is not about filthy, filthy sex? Nope.
“Hardest Button to Button” (Elephant) Excellently sinister; possibly about fratricide, or at least the fantasy of it.
“Death Letter” (De Stilj) Another borrowing from a blues great—this time, Son House—reworked as a thrashing, chaotic anthem.
“In the Cold Cold Night” (Elephant) One last one, just for Meg.