Monday, August 31, 2009

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 1

This past weekend I received the first pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postmark, the records were sent on August 28th. I received mine the next day.

The first set of items consists of a mono version of the White Stripes’ 2007 album Icky Thump on 180g vinyl, and a Dead Weather single with two non-album tracks. The package also included a black t-shirt with a label logo on the front.

The mono version of Icky Thump certainly sounds different with its sound layers flattened into one. The non-stereo sound often makes this modern album sound like a blues-rock recording from another time. More than ever, it sounds like a work by early Led Zeppelin on a very experimental day. Instead of a 21st-century rock band experimenting with bagpipes, the Stripes could be mistaken here for a band from the psychedelic or the prog era, using the instrument for similarly bold purposes. Listening to the album by four different album sides, each containing three or four songs, also makes its impact different than when it is heard all at once on CD. The medium really does make a difference. The band’s younger fans may not know what to think of this version of Icky Thump, but those who grew up in -- and miss -- the analog era would understand the intent, and would probably enjoy the result.

The Dead Weather single contains covers of two obscure songs, one from the cult metal band Pentagram, and another from the British cult r&b band Downliners Sect. Pentagram’s “Forever My Queen” was conceived around 1973, although it was not released until decades later, after that band actually began to release recordings. The Downliners Sect’s “Outside” originates from 1966. It is fitting that the Dead Weather would cover songs such as these, considering that their album Horehound has the feel of an outside-the-mainstream recording from one or both of those time periods. Although the covers are basically faithful to the originals, the Dead Weather make them their own with their distinctively dark and fuzzy sound. This single is a cool collectible item.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is evident on these items. The A-side of the single has the words “rent a scam” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has "sectual healing" carved. The Icky Thump double-LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “Do as your told”, “money-n-aluminum”, “Faygo – crème soda”, and “hot water”.


The Dead Weather “Forever My Queen” (b/w “Outside”) (Third Man single TMR010) 2009

Track Listing:

a. Forever My Queen
b. Outside


The White Stripes “Icky Thump” (mono LP version) (Third Man TMR 002) 2007/2009

Track Listing:

SIDE UNO:

1. Icky Thump
2. You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)
3. 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues

SIDE DWA:

4. Conquest
5. Bone Broke
6. Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn
7. St. Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)

SIDE THREE

8. Little Cream Soda
9. Rag And Bone
10. I'm Slowly Turning Into You

SIDE FOWER

11. A Martyr For My Love For You
12. Catch Hell Blues
13. Effect and Cause