It’s easy to hate Jack White. He’s known for bashing hip-hop and bong hits, pretty dicky by anyone’s standards. Still, one wonders if his hubris and regressive paranoia fuel the band, like gas propelling Cedric the Entertainer to the bathroom. However, “Walking With a Ghost,” the White Stripes’ cover of a 2004 album cut by Canadian indie-pop sister duo Tegan and Sara, proves that Jack White is in fact engaged in an epic, fanatical struggle to reverse all of rock’s advances since the Six-Day War.
People cover songs for three reasons: to honor them, to recontextualize them, or because theirs aren’t good enough. The White Stripes recorded “Walking With a Ghost” not for any of these reasons, but to lay claim to the song, as if, played primitively, it proves Tegan and Sara were somehow honoring Jack White. A Pitchfork reviewer even called the original, in a fit of revisionist, anti-pop newspeak, “Stripes-minded.” Tegan and Sara’s impeccably brisk acoustic guitar, new wave synth, and girly, incantatory vocals click poetically together. The White Stripes bristle at this exquisite effervescence, sounding as crudely uptight as an investment banker carousing on the Lower East Side. That’s three more blustery minutes spent undermining the theory of evolution.