Simplicity was the objective of Piet Mondrian, Theo Van Doesburg, and Bart Van Der Leck when, in Amsterdam in 1917, they started the course of a movement that became known as De Stijl ("the style"). All straight lines and right angles, primary colors and simple shapes, the movement bled over into every facet of life -- architecture, furniture, and art. It has even influenced the Detroit band the White Stripes, who have titled their new album De Stijl
as a sort of homage. Like the movement, the music of the White Stripes (the brother/sister combo of singer-guitarist-pianist Jack White and drummer Meg White) is simple. On 1999's self-titled debut, they play mad, urbanized blues. Bombastic and agitated guitars rail against mechanized assembly-line drumming. The only exception is a cut titled "Sugar Never Tasted So Good," a trickle of pop craftsmanship that stands out like a bloodstain on a white T-shirt -- or rather, a white spot on a blood-soaked T-shirt, considering the anguished squeal of the rest of the record. But "Sugar" defined the White Stripes' possibilities and their smarts. Still fired in the blues, De Stijl
is brighter and features bluesy pop music shot through the Stooges' broken funhouse window. It's early swamp-inspired Stones with fully realized modern possibilities. Moreover, it's Jon Spencer's exploding blues without the constant and tedious "guitar is a phallic extension" symbolism. The implied promise of rock music has been that it could always be this simple and fulfilling; thank God the White Stripes have put that philosophy into practice.