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This Week In History: The White Stripes ‘De Stijl’

The White Stripes catapulted into mainstream popularity with their 2001 album White Blood Cells, but their artistic vision was declared on their first two lesser-known albums. The band’s 2000 release De Stijl marks the transition for The White Stripes’ emergence from the raw, blues-soaked garage-rock scene in Detroit in the late 1990s, to their massive commercial and critical acclaim. It has since become a cult favourite among fans.

Jack and Meg were married in 1996. Just a year later, she had learned to play the drums and the two formed a band. Their first two albums wouldn’t be well known until after their 2001 album White Blood Cells exploded in popularity.

Inspired by peppermint candies, they named themselves The White Stripes, and designed a rudimentary aesthetic they would adhere to for the band’s duration. It was heavily inspired by the De Stijl art movement, after which they also named their second album. Jack White greatly admired the movement, in particular the work of designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld.

De Stijl was taped on an 8-track recorder in Jack White’s living room using just a guitar, drums, and White’s distinct piercing vocals. It is deeply rooted in blues music, featuring a cover of legendary bluesman Son House’s “Death Letter,” and is dedicated to influential musician Blind Willie McTell. The album proved Jack and Meg’s ability to create powerful, eclectic, minimalist rock & roll. Meg White started to be more prominent on this album, with songs like “Hello Operator” featuring small drum solos allowing the shy percussionist to take her first steps into the limelight. Her role in the band would continue to become more pivotal on future albums.

They were on the verge of becoming massively popular and critically acclaimed, cementing their place in music history. But their subsequent albums would be built upon the foundation laid out on De Stijl.

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