“Hotel Yorba” is a life-affirming garage rock classic

“Hotel Yorba” is a life-affirming garage rock classic

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

Every so often, I’ll hear a song I used to listen to constantly, but haven’t heard for more than 10 years. This elation will come over me as I realize that the song is still killer, followed by this odd sort of regret as I realize that I’ve spent years unconsciously forgetting to listen to it, years that could have been spent in utter happiness just letting note after note of said song wash over me. 

That’s what happened to me a couple of weeks ago with The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba.” Now, it’s no secret that the Stripes’ 2001 mega-single is a jam, but I’d somehow forgotten just how much of a burning rocker it really is. Because, goddamn, it is.

Part of the reason I might like “Hotel Yorba” so much is because of when it came out. In 2001 I was a junior in college, just about to turn 21, and finally realizing who I was and what kinds of people I wanted to hang out with. I wanted to dance all night, drink beer, and celebrate bands like The White Stripes who’d come up from playing little shows in a dingy bar in my college town—Athens, Ohio—to whatever level of fame they’d achieved by White Blood Cells. “Hotel Yorba” came out around that time and has thus become imbued with that sort of manic energy that floated around me at the exact same moment I heard it back in the early ’00s. I want to scream along with the “1-2-3-4” chorus, and I like how Meg White’s drumming isn’t great, personally believing that it’s because her drumming’s not perfect that the White Stripes became so iconic.

“Hotel Yorba” makes me 20 again, throwing me back into the dirty, cuffed-pants garage band scene I was so invested in at the time, and reminds me that my life is good, and it’s the life I chose to make for myself. “It might sound silly,” as Jack White would say, “for me to think childish thoughts like these,” but knowing that a single song can produce that kind of warm and fuzzy feeling in me could even seem like proof that humanity is good, and that one well-placed fuzzy guitar riff can turn a day, a week, or even a single moment around.


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