Prepare your turntable for some heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause there’s a killer new deep dive record club in town, and you’re gonna want to get your mitts on the band-themed short stack of wax they’re delivering every month. It’s called Bandbox, and it’s the customizable record club you’ve been waiting for.
Groove Is In The Bandbox
What’s the big deal, you ask?
To put it simply, the words FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE. That’s right, Team Bandbox is now offering a fully customizable listening experience each month by giving you the chance to select artists and albums to fit your own personal tastes. And just in case this is the first Bandbox Unboxed piece you’ve clicked on, you should know that Bandbox’s current slate of artists includes the likes of Neil Young, Weezer, Ride, Joy Division/New Order, Johnny Cash, and Arctic Monkeys.
If you are among the legions of fans out there excitedly reading my Bandbox unboxings every month, well, you likely remember me mentioning that some format changes were on the way for March. Those changes have proven to be a bit more dramatic than anticipated, as it happens with Bandbox no longer taking the double album deep-dive approach to their box. Instead, their new, fully customizable format starts with a single album of your choosing, and a seriously beefed up “Band Dox” zine full of insight, interviews, and behind the scenes pics of the artist you choose. You’ll now be able to dig that vinyl treasure for a beyond reasonable $29 a month.
Those who still fancy the double album approach fear not, ’cause if you want to continue deep-diving with your favorite artists, you can add an additional album to your box for an additional $17. As for me, I took a slightly different approach for the first month of the new and improved Bandbox sub by doubling up with releases/zines from two different artists … which is a seriously cool thing we can all do under the new format. Here’s a look at what’s inside our March Bandbox.
Now, I’m sincerely hoping that the new and improved Bandbox experience will help ease the nerves of those folks wary of letting a group of complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month. If you’re still a little suspect, you should know that Team Bandbox has already setup an exchange program which allows you to swap out records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the Bandbox archives. Hell, they’ll even let you integrate your Discogs account to ensure the never even offer you something you already have in your collection.
If you’re really, really wary of surprises, Team Bandbox will even let you tap out of your subscription by “pausing” your subscription at any time you like. It’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. Just know that from this day forward, your Bandbox experience will only be as amazing as you make it. Understood?
Let The Great World Spin
Now that I’ve given you all the down and dirty details about what Bandbox is bringing, let’s take a moment to get into my own March Bandbox.
As you probably noticed, I approached the exciting new format by making an odd little grab bag for myself, with releases from a pair of icons in Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against The Machine. What can I say about that pairing except I’m a man of many tastes, and I happen to think both The Boss and Rage are worthy selections for the Bandbox treatment. They also happen to share a little common ground on the political front, even if they express their views in dramatically different ways.
I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’ve heard those names before, so I’ll skip the dual history lesson this month, and instead get to digging the sonic goodies out of March’s shiny new Bandbox.
First up in this month’s unboxing is a sexy, 180g slab of Bruce Springsteen jams I’d never actually heard until by March Bandbox turned up on the door step. One that saw The Boss re-teaming with his E-Street compatriots after a long stretch of time apart.
Bruce Springsteen – Magic (2007)
As certain as I am that you are at least casually aware of the legendary status of Bruce Springsteen, I’m just as certain that most of you haven’t very far outside of The Boss’ more legendary recordings (see: Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Born To Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, Born in the U.S.A., and/or Human Touch). Of course, much of your exposure to Springsteen’s work depends on how you feel about his post-1980s output.
While I’m firmly of the opinion that The Boss has mostly gotten better with age, I’d lay even odds that’s not the most prominent opinion out there. As such, I’m virtually certain that, unless you were already a Springsteen fan when it was released, most of you did not give this album a chance when it was released in 2007. And even if you won’t admit it to me, I’ll freely admit an embarrassing fact about myself to you, which is that I haven’t really been into Springsteen’s work since 1982’s stark, stripped back folk record Nebraska.
As such, I went into my first listen of Springsteen’s Magic with virgin eyes and ears, and came out the other side deeply lamenting the fact that I’d unceremoniously given up on the man and his E-Street Band so long ago. Of Magic, I won’t say too much, because I’m sincerely hoping you’ll take me at face value when I say that if you’ve ever be a fan of Springsteen’s Nebraska, you’ll find a deeply maudlin, spiritual second cousin in 12 tracks that comprise Magic. Only one that views the heaviest and headiest themes of 2007 and fires them out of a classic rock cannon full of crunchy guitar riffs, propulsive percussions, and some seriously slick piano and saxophone interludes.
Top that off with a heavy dose of Springsteen’s world-weary, wryly introspective lyrics and scorched Earth vocals, and you’ve got an album as pure-blooded American as apple pie, and as venomous as a rattlesnake. Somewhere in the mix, Springsteen and his old E-Street pals make Magic as vintage a Bruce album as has ever existed. One that’s rife with cultural themes and complex moral quandaries as prescient today as the were over a decade ago.
And now, let’s take all take an angst-ridded trip back to the ’90s and bang our collective heads to an immaculate pressing of the second album from Rage Against The Machine.
Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire (1996)
They may seem a bit tame amid the turmoil of the here and now, but the ’90s were also turbulent time for the world. Amid all the chaos, the sunny side of pop music was essentially consumed by the so-called “alternative” music scene, which wasn’t quite as afraid to get down and wallow in the slop of societal discord. But of all the riotous bands who came of age in the era of “alternative,” none sowed the seeds of discord with quite as much verve as Rage Against The Machine.
More to the point, The L.A. based foursome were more or less sonic discord incarnate. That much was patently clear after the release of their searing, anti-everything self titled debut in 1992 – an album that feels just as bracingly original and sonically innovative even three decades on. Such bold statement was Rage Against The Machine that many in the music world couldn’t imagine the band could match that energy on their followup. Some even thought the band itself (as shocked as anyone that their hard-hitting, politically venomous music had found its way into the mainstream) would fall apart before that followup could be recorded.
Thankfully that didn’t happen. And while the band took its time putting their sophomore album together, it arrived in 1996 with as much style, energy, and cultural antipathy as its predecessor. Some even argued Evil Empire – even in spite of its more polished production values – actually outdid the band’s acerbic debut in terms of both caustic political rhetoric and raw sonic innovation.
One listen to Evil Empire‘s piercing second track “Bulls On Parade” will be more than enough convince you of such, with the band feverishly pummeling ear drums in a near four minute rager about American misdeeds at its Southern border. As Evil Empire unfolds, so too does the myth of the American Empire, with Zach de la Rocha’s lyrics disseminating scorn with biting alacrity. All the way, Tom Morello’s wildly inventive guitar work helps create a sonic tapestry that simultaneously depicts a world tearing itself apart while begging for the tools and knowhow to put itself back together.
Somehow in the mix, Rage Against The Machine also create as complete a document of American unrest and hypocrisy as has ever been captured on tape. That Evil Empire also happens to be an absolutely killer rock & roll record is almost as refreshing as it is irrelevant.
A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music
Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition. As the focus of each month’s box is now customizability, the scope of their zines has shifted slightly – i.e. you’re getting one specially selected album to start with, so there’s now no featured album every month. As there’s no featured album, there’s now no “Fan Talks” zine focus solely on that album. Unfortunately that leaves no room for the killer, album-inspired original artwork Cou Feis delivered for “Fan Talks” every month.
The absence of “Fan Talks” hardly means Bandbox is sharing any less with music lovers very month, however. In fact, they’ve taken the opportunity to beef up their killer “Band Dox” zine with even more pictures, interviews, and insightful articles than ever before. Which means you’re set to dive further into your chosen artist’s history than ever before.
Now, who’s ready to do some diving into the world of the one and only Bruce Springsteen? Just FYI – if your hand isn’t raised, it really, really should be. Especially as “Band Dox” #9 features a fascinating interview with original E-Street drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez.
Now, who’s ready to have a look inside the complicated and confrontational world of Rage Against The Machine?
Of course, After you’ve learned all there is to know about you’re chosen artist every month, there’s still the vital matter of the wax inside your Bandbox. Worry not, ’cause you’re still gonna be getting kick ass pressings of your selected albums every single month.
As for Springsteen’s Magic, it comes in a sexy, gatefold sleeve with a lovely group photo inside.
It also comes with printed inner sleeves complete with photos and a full lyric breakdown.
As for the vinyl, it is indeed 180g of sonic joy.
Rage Against The Machine
Sadly, there’s no gatefold for Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire, but Rage aren’t really the sorts to indulge in such fanciful packaging to begin with.
They did, however, allow the folks at We Are Vinyl to pony up for a digital download, ’cause Evil Empire is very much a head-nodder/banger that’ll play particularly well in your headphones.
They also opted for printed inners, if only to feature their politically savvy reading habits … not to mention the lyrics of frontman Zach de la Rocha.
As for the wax inside, it’s another beautiful, 180g behemoth.
Battle of the Bandbox
Look, there’s two new records in every single Bandbox. While it’s truly marvelous that the B-box team is doubling down on the wax every month, subscribers are certain to find themselves in the unique position of choosing a favorite between the pair. While that decision can often be a bit like picking between eating an apple or eating an orange, this month’s albums make it feel more like picking between a piece of apple pie and a stick of dynamite.
While I fully appreciate the bracing, full-tilt fury of Rage’s Evil Empire, times are indeed tough these days. As such, I was admittedly more in the mood for a warm slice of apple pie this month; if only because I’m currently hunkered down like the rest of you and not bold enough to wander into the world in search of a real slice for myself. So let’s all give a round of applause to March’s Battle of the Bandbox champ, Bruce Springsteen’s surprisingly audacious Magic!
It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need
Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not gonna fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves giddily wrapped up in the madness, you already aware there are a million and one different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.
If you’re looking to round out that collection a little sooner than later, a vinyl club that’s down to send you one, ore even two worthy records every month is a pretty good way to do it. With Bandbox delivering high-quality pressings of albums by popular artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with lust-worthy popular discs and discover deep dive treats you might’ve previously overlooked. That savvy mix of quality and variety should make it easy for diehard vinyl fans and newbs alike to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!