Get Behind Me Satan is a brave but weird fifth album recorded in just two weeks and...
Damian Jones 2003
Jack and Meg White are without doubt the strangest, most fascinating couple to surface from the US in the past four years.
Jack's life in particular has become something of a soap opera. There's been brawling (with Jason Von Bondie), a Hollywood romance (Renee Zellweger), car crashes and now his sudden marriage to 25-year-old model Karen Elson on the eve of this latest release. All very odd but completely engrossing stuff.
The same could be said for Get Behind Me Satan, a brave but weird fifth album recorded in just two weeks and containing just three electric tracks. Jack's familiar guzzling guitar stomp has for the most part been traded in for a more melodic acoustic sound that relies heavily on piano and percussion effects.
Tub thumping opener "Blue Orchid" follows the White Stripes formula which dominated the duo's career defining predecessor, Elephant. But the song is cut short abruptly, making way for the album's most experimental number "The Nurse", the first of three tracks dedicated to 1940s screen siren Rita Hayworth. While Jack sings: "No I'm never, no I'm never, no I'm never gonna let you down now", the sound of a tinkling marimba (giant xylophone), distorted guitar riffs, haunting piano strings and Meg's head pounding drum-rolls veer off in all sorts of directions.
By contrast the instantly infectious "My Doorbell" is simple and direct, driven only by a piano, drums and Jack's catchy vocal: "I'm thinking about my doorbell. When you gonna ring it? When you gonna ring it?"
And while the search goes on for the next "Seven Nation Army" it soon becomes clear that Get Behind Me Satan is devoid of such anthems. The closest the duo get is the Led Zeppelin-ish "Instinct Blues", a sublime track smattered with fuzzy guitar riffs and "Red Rain", which sees The White Stripes at their most aggressive.
Lyrically the album is dark and angry; especially on "Take, Take, Take". Here an obsessive fan rages in disgust at being refused a picture with Rita Hayworth just seconds after being handed over an autograph sealed with a kiss.
Get Behind Me Satan may fail to reach Elephant's stomping great heights but then Jack and Meg White are the most unconventional duo in rock 'n' roll. The album explores their musical capabilities to the full and in so doing proves they have more than a few tricks up their sleeve.