One of America's best rock bands is no more.In a statement on its website on Wednesday, the White Stripes announced they have broken up. The split, the band said, was not due to artistic differences but "mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way."
It makes sense that the White Stripes would announce their end suddenly and without fanfare. The duo of Jack and Meg White became one of the world's most popular bands - perhaps no current American act boasted a better combination of critical acclaim and box office power - by being rock stars who adhered to their own rules.
The band could have cashed in on a farewell tour or simply soldiered on, headlining festivals and playing its blues-garage-rock scorchers for its fans. But Jack White, the duo's on-and-offstage voice, always seemed to respect rock-and-roll a little too much to do something so cliche.
The conclusion of the band's breakup statement says as much: "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. Thank you for sharing this experience. Your involvement will never be lost on us and we are truly grateful."
Early in the band's existence, Jack and Meg - formerly married - posed as siblings and were vague about their relationship in interviews. They wore red and white clothing, exclusively. Their second album, De Stijl, was named after a 20th-century art movement based on simple and specific visual cues. The sound was a studied mixture of Detroit garage and electric blues.
The band's musical style was what made stardom stick, though. It featured Jack White's virtuosic guitar playing pitted against Meg White's plodding drum work. Nobody doubted Jack's talent. Meg was sometimes derided for her rudimentary playing, but the contrast of Jack's scorching and Meg's thumping helped make the band unique.
They gained mainstream notice in 2001 with Fell in Love With a Girl, a 90-second tornado of a song that got them lumped in with acts such as the Strokes, the Hives and the Vines as part of a new garage rock revival. But the Stripes weren't newcomers. The track came from White Blood Cells, their third album after a pair of raw, independent releases on which the band defined its aesthetic.
The duo reached its peak on 2003's Elephant, which found the band expanding its sound without losing any of the immediacy. It spawned Seven Nation Army, the group's biggest hit, as well as the squalling Ball and Biscuit, perhaps the White Stripes' definitive statement. Subsequent albums Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump were less essential but still pushed them to superstar status.
The band became less active in recent years - it last toured in 2007 - as Jack performed with various side projects (the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather), focused on his Third Man Records label and became a sort of fairy godfather for such veteran acts as country star Loretta Lynn and rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, producing their comeback albums and introducing them to a new generation.