Get Behind Me Satan

Studio Album by released in 2005
Get Behind Me Satan's tracklist:
Blue Orchid
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The Nurse
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My Doorbell
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Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)
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Little Ghost
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The Denial Twist
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White Moon
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Instinct Blues
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Passive Manipulation
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Take, Take, Take
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As Ugly as I Seem
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Red Rain
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I'm Lonely (but I Ain't That Lonely Yet)
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Get Behind Me Satan review

Four years after they broke out of Detroit and into the world’s imaginations, The White Stripes still don’t do things like other bands. Their fifth album Get Behind Me Satan didn’t even exist before March, when it was recorded in a mere two weeks, none of the songs having been completely written beforehand. The swiftness of Get Behind Me Satan’s appearance has taken the music industry by surprise, especially given that 2003’s Elephant album sat on the shelf for an entire year before its keeper, Jack White, saw fit to allow it out. It is the least focused (and by far the strangest) effort by these garage rock superstars to date. It's also their finest, a Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street-ish mish-mash where the sum is greater than the parts. There are a lot fewer pounding guitars on this album. They've largely been replaced by pounding pianos. Most songs sound like rough mixes at first; almost every song has something exceptionally loud in the mix – the guitar solo in The Nurse, the drums in My Doorbelll, everything in Blue Orchid. After a few listenings, however, it becomes clear that the group is not using the studio as an instrument so much as exposing the nuts and bolts in the process along the way.

This album is strangely sprawling and obliquely ass-kicking at the same time. My Doorbell sounds enough like the Jackson Five to totally rule, and Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) is the best ballad Jack's written in years. The fact that some marimbas provide the driving force to this song makes it all better. Blue Orchid, the single and first track, is a rock-disco sonic smash that shows how to really get rock kids on the dance floor. It is a falsetto freakout, minimal even by The White Stripes standards, whose relentlessly repetitive fuzz guitar riff weirdly calls to mind the latest Daft Punk album. Unlike Elephant, which famously used no technology made after 1965 and sounded almost live, Blue Orchid displays its artificiality as brazenly as the flower of the title, with sparse but dramatic production trickery including backwards singing, stereo panning and the song ending in mid note. It’s a baffling introduction to a very strange album, which shreds the old White Stripes rulebook (no bass, just guitar and drums) and pushes into territories way beyond the blues and rock of their previous four records. The only traditional-sounding The White Stripes tracks are the bluesy Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) and Instinct Blues. The Led Zeppelin and Queen influences paraded on Elephant have been traded in for fifties exotica (thanks to heavy use of the marimba) and stuff that defies genre altogether. The lyrics are overwhelmingly dark: from the paranoia of ‘The Nurse’ to the contemptuous kiss off to former lovers in I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).

Jack describes Get Behind Me Satan as an exploration of “characters and the ideal of truth”. This is a very brave record, but ultimately one, which after many listenings becomes beguiling and seductive. In a world of fakers, careerists and time-servers, The White Stripes are the real, strange, artistic deal. It’ll be a long time before Jack and Meg sell their souls.