No one's espousing the hometown pride quite like Stripes frontman Jack White, who recently toured with the Detroit flag as his backdrop. "Detroit is the best," said White in a recent phone interview. "We've gone on tour so many times, and I've never seen bands in other cities like the bands that are here. It's really just amazing. I thought it was just because I'm used to the sound of certain things at home, but no. People in other cities say the same thing -- that they like Detroit bands the best."
Recently, White put his sonic affections on record, engineering, producing, and co-mixing the compilation Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit. According to the liner notes, the album "documents a time period in Detroit's music history" and features true punk bands that "don't suffer from the anxiety of not getting signed or not getting their music in a film." While the Stripes seem to be everywhere at once these days, other groups on Sympathetic Sounds are so underground they've got dirt in their pockets. On "Black Girls," little-known Paybacks frontwoman Wendy Case steals the show with gritty vocals that cross Tina Turner with Faces-era Rod Stewart. The Dirtbombs follow Case's homage with their own tale of "brown-skinned honeys," a catchy rock sing-along called "I'm Through With White Girls." Other highlights include the Soledad Brothers' harmonica-laced number "Shaky Puddin'," the Buzzards' snotty old-school punk track "High Class," and the history-of-a-damaged-man number "Whiskey 'n' Women" by the Clone Defects.
Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit is not only a smartly timed release -- coming out as legions of garage rock lovers turn their ears to the town's amps -- it's also a well-compiled slice of Detroit, a city that's housed everything from Motown to Alice Cooper, the Stooges to techno, and, in a recent dry spell, Eminem to Kid Rock. Sympathetic Sounds may only be a glimpse at a scene that's been weakening punk knees since the mid-'80s, but with so many talented acts sharing the same slab of vinyl, the record is a damn fine sampler.