The White Stripes - "City Lights" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

28 September 2016

Five years after the White Stripes' heartbreaking end, "City Lights" is a melancholy echo of what was.
 

Adriane Pontecorvo: Five years after the White Stripes’ heartbreaking end, “City Lights” is a melancholy echo of what was. Jack White’s distinctive voice cracks over sparse, lovely guitar twangs, sounding like a late autumn chill. It’s a gem, but an unpolished one, beautiful for all its rough edges and the time it’s spent buried. Michel Gondry takes an intimate, minimalist approach to his surprise video, fitting for such a bare-bones song. A bittersweet hymn for fans of the White Stripes who need a real chance to mourn, and a simple, soothing acoustic piece no matter who you are. [9/10]
  

Andrew Paschal: I have to admit, I kind of couldn’t believe Jack White was still at it with that melody by the time the song clocks out at five minutes. While my attention couldn’t help but wander as a result of the repetitiveness, it nonetheless is an effective melody, straddling a number of different moods precariously. Is it playful? Threatening? Fearful? A little bit of all, perhaps, and the fact that it’s a recently unearthed gem from more than ten years ago makes it all the more charming. [7/10]

Evan Sawdey: Jack White’s post-Stripes work has been a mix of both the incredible and the incredibly unfocused. He finally started believing his hype as rock’s Great White Hope, but when you unearth achingly beautiful acoustic one-offs like this, you realize that there was truly something worth pinning all your six-stringed hopes on. The song, and the surprise, Michel Gondry-helmed video, are welcome additions to a discography that, surprisingly, is still underrated to this day. Even as the lead single off a double-disc acoustic rarities dive, this teases a far more compelling question to Jack that can’t sound anything but sheepish in delivery: “Mr White ... do you have any more where that came from?” [8/10]

Steve Horowitz: A nice song, if a little too long. The simplicity of the singing and playing make Jack White seem like a sincere fellow, and who hasn’t waited from a loved one to come back from somewhere? That said, a little schmaltz goes a long way. The shower paintings do a good job of keeping the theme lighthearted. It’s as if life is fated to work out and true love will find a way. Who would want to be the curmudgeon to bicker with that? [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: It’s nice to hear a White Stripes song after all these years, although this is hardly the guitar/drum bashing we’re used to hearing from Jack and Meg. The instrumentation and arrangement show the duo in a quieter mood, giving Jack’s acoustic guitar a lot of love and overall production that sounds warm and roomy. A lovely, unexpected gem. [8/10]

Michael Pementel: “City Lights” has a beautiful late night and starry aura to it. Of course, Jack White’s voice and guitar playing are perfect and make for that core of that atmosphere to be found. The music video is creative to watch with the shower art, and adds a layer to that atmosphere of wonder. There’s nothing outstanding about the song, but it doesn’t need to be that… It is a simply enjoyable, peaceful, well crafted song with pace and tone. [7/10]

Paul Carr: This White Stripes leftover shows another side to White as a guitarist. This is a tender acoustic number that would fit perfectly with his quieter acoustic solo material. It’s a very slight song with stark finger picking reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”. The lyrics deal with the anticipation of meeting a loved one whilst taking a flight above the city. It’s a very relatable song and just goes to show why the White Stripes resonated with so many people. [9/10]

Scott Zuppardo: A new video for an old Stripes song. I dig the minimalist approach in both Meg and Jack’s song and the surprise video from longtime buddy of the band, famed filmmaker Michel Gondry. The song off of 2005’s stripped down White Stripes effort, Get Behind Me Satan, when the duo turned down the amps and opted for more rhythmic paths and acoustic instruments over their evolved custom punk blues ethos. Not a bad way to shed some light on a forgotten song from a decade plus ago. [8/10]

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