The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 16, 2005
Review by Tony BonyataDamn if they haven't done it again. Just when the constraints of their stripped down, two-piece guitar-and-drums ensemble (not to mention their red and white candy-cane regalia) seemed as if it might be near the end of its tether, Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes have created yet another gem of sometimes beautiful, sometimes odd and challenging, but always entertaining rock music with one eye focused towards the future and the other on the past.
On the Detroit duo's fifth full-length album Get Behind Me Satan (a line borrowed from Matthew 16:22, 23) Jack has offered up a collection of expertly crafted compositions that stand amongst some of his strongest to date. While the styles exercised here - hornswoggled country, gutbucket blues, spastic rock & roll and heartfelt acoustic ballads - have all received healthy workouts on the twosome's previous efforts, the main difference on ...Satan is that Jack has downplayed his explosive guitar in exchange for a piano that taunts, teases and seduces the majority of the numbers throughout.
Like it's predecessor Elephant, which immediately opened with the stampeding hit "Seven Nation Army," Get Behind Me Satan pops the clutch straight into the riff-driven, hell-bent scorcher "Blue Orchid." The only two other numbers to predominately feature White unleashing his big, ballsy guitar sound are the bluesy swagger of "Red Rain," where he revisits the devilish slide guitar from their 1999 version of Son House's 1929 number "Death Letter." The entire album was said to have only taken two weeks to record and the raw urgency and immediacy is most apparent on the rough-hewn, blues-went-a-courtin' monstrosity of "Instinct Blues."
While not a direct blues number, the lyrical content of the jaunty, upbeat pop of "My Doorbell," where Jack moans, "I'm thinkin' about my doorbell, when you gonna ring it," was undoubtedly influenced by Lil Johnson's 1936 racey blues number "Press My Button (Ring My Bell)," a remarkable document of sexual double-entendres in rural southern music that would go onto influence a wave of British Invasion bands three decades later.
Never one to leave out a wonderful ballad, White delivers the beautifully frail "Forever For Her (Is Over for Me)" lightly spiced with marimba, an instrument which also lends a Caribbean breeze to the juxtaposing lilt of Jack's voice with Meg's percussive thunder crash on "The Nurse."
Obviously still reeling from his recent work with country legend Loretta Lynn on her Van Lear Rose album, White introduces us to the inbred cousin of their 2001 hit "Hotel Yorba" on "Little Ghost," a spirited slice of country-fried mountain music, before closing the album out with the piano-kissed country-balladry of "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)."
"And all the chickens get it, and the singing canaries get it. Even strawberries get it. So why don't you?," White howls at one point. And after listening to this challenging album that continues to broaden The White Stripes' palette of rock, there's no good reason not to get it.
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