The White Stripes want to bring physicality back to rock music. Nearly every decision Jack and Meg White make as a band reminds listeners that the best rock and folk music is never ephemeral and faceless. It comes from places you can visit and sticks with you like a black eye.
The band’s latest stunt of self-mythologizing is Icky Thump Records, a note-for-note re-creation of the former Tower Records store on the Sunset Strip, tweaked to fit their peppermint candy-meets-Flannery O’Connor-mortician aesthetic. The venue hosted a one-off White Stripes performance Wednesday for the first 200 shoppers (a mix of hipster demimonde such as Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, frat dudes waiting for “Seven Nation Army” and Strip metal-heads who wandered in off the street) who had come to the “store” opening Monday to buy the new “Icky Thump” album.
“I’m quite fond of Amoeba, but this is the coolest thing,” said Delta Johnson, a Hancock Park resident who visited Monday and admitted to a bit of sweet-talking to get into Wednesday’s show with her sister.
Icky Thump Records acted as a three-dimensional MySpace page that slyly disguised a promotional onslaught as a chance to let the audience tangibly enter the White Stripes’ universe. Jack and Meg are the most reliably on-message rock band today, and each detail -- from the red cellophane over the house lights to the pillbox-hatted waitresses plying sweets and water bottles (if there was any alcohol in Icky Thump Records, it must have required extraordinary diligence to find) -- seemed designed to break through the fourth wall.
“It’s unreal, the chance to see them on this scale,” said Corinne Ferris, a 28-year-old Valley resident who won tickets to the show from KROQ-FM (106.7). Her sister, Tara Ferris, estimated that she’d seen the band seven times.
“Icky Thump” comes at a time when the dominant pop music is minimalist, robotic R&B; that’s often pitch-corrected and visually anonymous. After a brief and typically enthusiastic introduction from Jack Black, the duo made a profound re-statement of purpose from the first chords of the new record’s title track.
“Can I get an amen for nondisposable music?” Jack asked the crowd at one point.
Record stores and even records themselves may seem to be negligible in today’s music industry. But if music has any future as a physical object, the White Stripes are likely the band to hand it to us.