The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan

[V2; 2005]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: garage rock, blues rock, solid rock
Others: Son House, the Stooges, Loretta Lynn, Jesus Christ

Jack and Meg's loss of innocence -- we knew it was coming. The expectations of its arrival have been spoken of for a few years now. We've seen the white articles of clothing be overtaken by the black; their raucous performance of "Death Letter" at the 2004 Grammy Awards made their intentions clear. Son House's stomps were replaced with cymbal crashes. Yes, we knew it was coming. But we didn't know it would arrive with a pencil-thin moustache. We didn't know the singer would be dressed up like a funeral-going gondolier. We didn't know the singer would look like his gondola had been capsized somewhere near the shores of Guatemala. Didn't know he'd fall for a love goddess -- a pin-up gal. We didn't know he would usher in an upright piano, shakers, and a marimba. We weren't even aware the sibling victims had been drying out gourds.

The White Stripes are resisting temptations. They're acting off instincts. Always a reclusive pair, preferring dim to shine and secrecy to publicity, the duo headed south for the time leading up to the release of Get Behind Me Satan. With the album reaching the states, we find Jack and Meg putting faith in apparitions. The devil's torture methods have left Jack, the former aspiring priest, with a higher voice. They've embraced a Central American influence. The band has long expressed their interest in Dylan's Desire album. They covered "One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)" on their debut album, and "Isis" was covered live on a number of occasions. It's no coincidence that there are many South-of-the-border mentions on Desire, as there is in both the aesthetic and content of Get Behind Me Satan. Perhaps such matters were discussed backstage at the Dylan concert in Detroit last year on Saint Patrick's Day, prior to Jack joining Bob onstage to perform "Ball and Biscuit" (a song Son House would certainly approve of).

The songs on Get Behind Me Satan are sturdy. Like previous albums, it's an even mix of soft ditties and hard-nosed romps. Piano pounding and playful key touches dominate roughly half the songs, driving the songs enough to be a worthy replacement for guitar. "The Nurse" is like nothing the band has ever done before; the much-talked about marimba is most prominent here. On "Little Ghost," we find Jack singing as Georgia (albeit a triple-tracked vocal version of him), returning to Cold Mountain for one last mountain tune. Parts of the vocal melody on "As Ugly As I Seem" sound borrowed from the Born Again Christian Dylan tune "I Believe In You." "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)" sounds like a long-distance companion to Loretta Lynn's "Miss Being Mrs." Temptation is apparent throughout the album. On "The Denial Twist," lust gets the best of the singer, leaving him vulnerable. There is nothing left to profit from his sin, and "the twist" turns from a rambunctious anthem that promotes procreation to an unsettling tale of bitterness.

More than once, Jack pledges his devotion and adoration towards an actress. Rita Hayworth is the actress' name -- the name spoken in songs, anyway. "A lot of people been confused and abused / Real easy when it comes to love." Jack White takes plenty of time lamenting over the difficulties of maintaining a balanced romantic relationship. Sincere longing and damning the inconvenience of distance equally pervade the album.

The origin of the phrase "Get behind me, Satan," as you could've guessed, is biblical. It was Jesus' reply to Satan when that smarmy devil offered the Savior all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship. You must have a bass player in your band if you thought Jesus was going to worship Satan -- and Jack and Meg ain't going to worship him either. The evils they are choosing to reject are many -- fame, excess, and certain pale-faced Oscar winners. Jesus also used the phrase to rebuke Peter for doubting and objecting to his plans for resurrection. Jesus proclaimed: "Get thee behind me, Satan." (Jack White wasn't so historically-obsessed to include the word "thee" in his use of the phrase.) There are still detractors who question the White Stripes minimalist beliefs and old-fashioned approach to music-making -- Satan-worshipers, in other words. The White Stripes have embraced the temptations, the negativity, and the troubles. Now they're showing them all to the door.

Orchids have lost their whiteness, the color of pouring rain has turned blood red, and ghosts are now kept as pets. Jack White originally planned to call this album Let's Play the Victim, and so they are playing the victims, working to triumph over power, greed, and corruptible seed. Now go take a bath together, Jack and Meg.

1. Blue Orchid
2. The Nurse
3. My Doorbell
4. Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)
5. Little Ghost
6. The Denial Twist
7. White Moon
8. Instinct Blues
9. Passive Manipulation
10. Take, Take, Take
11. As Ugly As I Seem
12. Red Rain
13. I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)

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