Vinyl Me, Please June Edition: The White Stripes – De Stijl
Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.
Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (a 3-month membership will set you back a mere $81) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is an Essential addition to any record collection. Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. Just FYI – each custom pressing (often on colored wax!) also comes with killer special features like original artwork, informative booklets, or even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP store too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including May’s glorious reissue of Stevie Nicks’ landmark solo debut Bella Donna – not to mention a slate of super-limited releases pressed exclusively for Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.
Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of the more covet-worthy stock is only available to subscribers, so membership definitely has its rewards. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you’re not interested in for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.
What about the June box, you say? Get ready to hear the story of a boy, and a girl, and a whole lotta noise with The White Stripe’s era-defining sophomore release De Stijl.
Before we shuffle merrily along, I just want to take a quick moment to point out the little bit of re-branding with Vinyl Me, Please’s July box. Along with a killer new logo, Team VMP has also unveiled a catchy new new slogan in “Lost Sounds Found,” proclaiming their noble mission to bring sexy pressings of unearthed, overlooked, or long-forgotten classics to the masses.
Like most VMP regulars, I got a supersized box for July. That’s because I went on a vinyl spending spree in the Member’s store this month. And for those who are wondering why my June unboxing didn’t arrive until July, it’s not because of some VMP error, or even because I’m lazy. Like every other industry on planet Earth right now, the record pressing business is also being massively affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Which means the awesome folks at Jack White’s Third Man Records pressing plant in Detroit were forced to shut down production mid-pressing on De Stijl, which put them several weeks behind schedule. Luckily, they caught up in time to get the June Essentials pick shipped off with Vinyl Me, Please’s July boxes.
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna subject you to a two-for unboxing piece this month. But if you wanna know all about that Classics, AAA pressing of McCoy Tyner’s Sahara, you’ll want to keep an eye peeled on Geek Insider in the next week or so. For now, let’s have a butcher’s at the June Essentials pick, The White Stripes’ De Stijl.
For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND
They haven’t been a working band for roughly a decade, but there are few legacies on the modern indie scene which remain quite as unblemished as that of Detroit blues-rock duo The White Stripes. Truth is, the band is as popular today as they were when they released their self-titled debut album just over two decades ago. The band released that debut back in 1999, to be precise. And while that album is as mired by a lack of focus today as it was upon release, it also stands as a fascinating, deceptively simple, often electrifying document of raw, lo-fi garage rock from a single-minded band with style and energy to burn. One who happened to be the cusp of figuring out how big their sound could be.
That band consisted solely of Jack White (guitar/vocals) and Meg White (drums/vocals). They built their sound almost entirely from those two instruments, and still made more glorious noise than most four piece outfits. They wore only signature colors red, white, or black when they performed. And when they played, they played with such fevered energy, their music was virtually impossible to ignore.
After the moderate success of The White Stripes, Jack White was out to prove something with the band’s sophomore album , 2000’s De Stijl. After briefly eyeing success in 1999, he’s spent the ensuing year on the road, coming into his own as both a guitarist and a songwriter. He also seemed to know beyond doubt that The White Stripes were on the verge of greatness. Recorded by Jack himself on an 8-track analog deck in his own living room, De Stijl is every bit as raw and raucous and unabashedly earnest as the album that preceded it. But there was an unmistakable sense of direction this go round that ensured every one of the 13 songs within landed with maximum sonic impact, with some even packing a surprising emotional wallop.
Of those songs, I’ll simply say they were formed with the same penchant for boyish balladry, foot-stomping folkery, and stripped-back, no bullshit blues-rock rancor as pretty much every, single track The White Stripes recorded thereafter. That perfectly postured coarseness quickly put Jack and Meg at the forefront of the so-called “garage-rock revival” of the early ’00s, and basically made them the poster-children for the movement (alongside The Strokes) after the release of their third full length, 2001’s immaculate White Blood Cells.
With early ’00s standards like “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground,” “Fell In Love With a Girl,” “Hotel Yorba,” and “Offend In Every Way” in tow, many still consider White Blood Cells to be the unrivaled masterwork of the era. I’m one of them, by the way, and will continue to champion that album as one of the best of the new millennium until the end of days.
But even a White Blood Cells super-fan like myself can see that De Stijl is the record in which form officially met function for for The White Stripes. And while it may not contain quite the jaw-dropping collection of indie rock anthems, tracks like the rambunctious album opener “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl),” the beautifully abrasive “Little Bird,” and the attitude-is-everything stomper “Death Letter” help form as filthy and ferocious a Side 1 of a record as the world has ever seen.
Of the tracks on Side 2 of De Stijl, I’ll simply say there’s just not a misstep in the pack. I’ll even go one step further and say the one-two punch of De Stijl‘s “Why Cant You Be Nicer To Me,” and “Your Southern Can Is Mine” are the sort of album-closing crushers most artist’s dream of. That The White Stripes toss them off so effortlessly are all you need to know about what was on the horizon for Jack and Meg. In turn, those tracks help make De Stijl the rock & roll mission statement the new millennium hadn’t yet realize it needed.
While De Stijl still hasn’t claimed title as my fave album from The White Stripes, it’s 110% the White Stripes album with my favorite artwork. That has a lot do with De Stijl‘s stylish cover art being directly inspired by the album’s title … which itself refers to the Dutch art movement of the early 20th Century founded on the concept of stripping art back to the essentials of form and color, often depicting abstract vertical and horizontal shapes and utilizing only blacks, whites, and primary colors. I’m gonna go ahead and assume you don’t need further explanation as to why that makes the De Stijl cover so damned perfect for the album itself.
Now, before we proceed, you really should take a second to dig the flashy red foil stamp on the back cover (itself showcasing Jack White’s famed triple tremolo amp), which forever tags De Stijl as a Vinyl Me, Please Essentials selection.
You might want to read over this special hype sticker before you remove the album from the plastic as well, ’cause it lays out all the particulars about what makes this pressing of The White Stripes’ De Stijl the pressing of The White Stripes’ De Stijl.
Once that pesky plastic is open, you’ll be able to take a closer look at the vital stats on the OBI strip protecting the album’s spine. That’s where you’ll be able to confirm info like the band and album names (which should be very clear by now) along with the VMP catalogue number. Hard to believe this is the 90th Vinyl Me, Please Essential released to date … which means we’re getting very close to number 100.
Flip that OBI over, and you’ll find a few compelling words on why De Stijl was elected as June’s Essentials pick, not that you should need much convincing.
And if you’re the sort who enjoy a cold adult beverage while spinning records, the Faygo/Dark Rum-centric De Stijl companion cocktail called “Death Letter” should more than do the trick.
Oh, and you might’ve caught’ a peak of it earlier, but Vinyl Me, Please tossed a sticker in the box this month of their fresh new logo, because that’s just what one does when one drops a fresh new logo on the world.
If you’ve been following my Vinyl Me, Please unboxings for a while, you know every Essentials pick comes with an original 12X12 art print. You might also know that lately those prints have more and more just been really fantastic photos of the artists themselves. Team VMP got back in the art business this month, with this minimalist stunner from Tristan McNatt, inspired by the triple tremolo amp Jack White used throughout De Stijl‘s recording.
Once you get inside the sleeve of The White Stripes’ De Stijl, you’re sure to find this little booklet, which contains all sorts of pics and production details from the recording of the album, not to mention a full lyric breakdown.
Of course, the wax inside that sleeve is the single most vital element of any Vinyl Me, Please unboxing. And even I have to admit the folks at VMP (with a little help from Jack White’s Third Man Records) have really outshone pretty much ever other Essentials pressing with this choppy red and black beauty.
And you had better believe it’s gonna bring some serious heat to your deck this Summer.
How’s it sound? Like you were out taking a walk through a sleepy neighborhood on a hot summer night. In the near distance, you hear a low, melodic rumble, and as you get closer you realize the noise is coming from a ramshackle garage. You stop, and prick up an ear, and hear the most joyously raucous blues-rocky riot going on inside. Rather than knock on the door and risk pausing the music, you walk around the side, peak through the window, and find said riot includes but two human beings hammering away at their instruments with brazenly effervescent energy. But before you can fully digest this staggering discovery, you’r run off by a crazed old man with a pistol screaming that he’s caught a peeping tom. As you dash through the streets, your lungs burn, your palms sweat, and the riotous rock you’ve just heard continues to pulse through your veins.
Give it a spin
I’ll be the first to admit that a drool-worthy re-issue of an album from The White Stripes was a very easy sell for me. Mainly because they were a major band for me when I stumbled upon them back in the year 2000. And yes, De Stijl was actually the first White Stripes album I ever heard or bought. But in case I wasn’t crystal clear earlier, my initial leaning was that if Vinyl Me, Please was gonna give the Essentials treatment to any of The White Stripes’ records, I would’ve preferred 2001’s White Blood Cells, which is not just my favorite release from the band, but remains as flawless a crunchy, indie rock record as the early ’00s produced.
Now that this fantabulous pressing of De Stijl has arrived, and I’ve spent a few days re-connecting with the songs that first exposed me to The White Stripes’ singular blend of bluesy, lo-fi garage rock, I’m really finding it a little harder to continue that argument. And if I’m being completely honest, De Stijl is on the verge of becoming my new favorite album among The White Stripes’ brilliant six studio releases. It may never actually unseat White Blood Cells for that top spot, but I must admit I feel like I’m hearing De Stijl for the very first time with this pressing, and I simply cannot thank Vinyl Me, Please enough for giving me an excuse to sit down and experience this beast of an album the way it’s meant to be experienced.
A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! And be sure to check back with Geek Insider in the next week or so for July’s official unboxing of McCoy Tyner’s overlooked, 1972 jazz masterpiece Sahara!