Get Behind Me Satan


Format: CD
Label: V2
Catalog: 27256
Rel. Date: 06/07/2005
UPC: 638812725622

Get Behind Me Satan
Artist: The White Stripes
Format: CD
New: OUT OF STOCK. Contact us for availability.

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On Elephant, Jack White's stadium ambitions outstripped his band's abilities. If the White Stripes are not now the biggest rock band in the world, that's because Jack's catchiness and crunch are often tripped up by obsessions his audience rarely shares: dead bluesmen, Snidely Whiplash moustaches, 40-year-old recording techniques, Renllweger. Plus, the Stripes have no rhythm section, flying directly in the face of 2005's disco-rock explosion. (Then again, Lifehouse has even less of one, and they're doing just fine.)

Six years and five albums in, those zinging cymbals and wet cardboard drums are part of the charm. So why does Get Behind Me Satan sound like White trying to outrun his critics? Maybe because, bottom end or no, it doesn't much rock. Opener "Blue Orchid" coughs up a hairball riff and some sizzling hi-hats, sounding like all that newfangled dance-rock left behind the radiator for a month. But imagine if Elephant's "Seven Nation Army" was followed not by barnburners like "Ball & Biscuit" but with an album of... sensitive piano ballads.

Okay, not exactly. But piano carries the bulk of the melody on Satan, and Jack is definitely cap-in-hand, lyrically. "The Nurse" throws out all Stripes expectations with its palsied egg shaker, ham-fisted marimba, and a guitar more like a rimshot. Unfortunately, it's not a very good song-like most of the album it sounds half-finished. (Plus, every track has at least one instrument mixed eardrum-piercingly higher than the rest.) Still, there's plenty to recommend amidst the general half-assedness. Meg's drums desperately, joyously attempt a Motown shuffle on "Doorbell." "Forever for Her" is Jack's best love song in years, a surging charge urging the object of his affection to "just do it/ like the birds and the bees." And the guitar playing on "Little Ghost" is simply beautiful.

By "Instinct Blues," with its bottom feeding guitar and orgasmic "Whoo!," you're thankful Jack hasn't abandoned the nasty riff entirely, but as "blues," this stuff is no different than the vamps pounded out right now by white dudes in a bar near you. "Passive Manipulation" is Meg playing with the rumor mill: "Women, listen to your mothers/ Don't just succumb to the wishes of your brothers." When a throwaway has the catchiest chorus on the album, you've got a songwriter avoiding his strengths. And on the cusp of some lo-fi AOR breakthrough, leaning on half-formed rockers like "Take, Take, Take" as a crutch is unseemly. But just as every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, every White Stripes albums is imperfect in its own way. It would be churlish to point out the inconsistencies of the scrappiest bedroom visionaries to go top of the pops since Pavement's near-miss.