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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The White Stripes
Get Behind Me Satan
V2 Music

Rating: 7/10 ?

June 30, 2005
The White Stripes have solved the equation for alternative stardom. Jack and Meg have played the publicity game perfectly, keeping their pasty faces in the tabloids and on MTV news reels. Jack has especially done his part to stay in the collective conscious, surrounding his band with an aura of fable, beating the shit out of that Von Bondies wimp, courting Renée Zellweger on a movie set and Loretta Lynn in a recording studio - each step fuels a band with an image so complete it's impossible to ignore. Any unhip Gen Xer can tell you that the White Stripes are a blues-charged rock duo with an American gothic slant. But have they taken that image too far?

It's no secret that Get Behind Me Satan is the weirdest White Stripe outing to date. Jack and Meg fake the easy dunk ("Blue Orchid"), pretending to go for the churning rock offensive while they head for the perimeter to take a wildly off-balance three pointer ("The Nurse"). The last thing you expect to hear after the final note of "Blue Orchid" is a wacko marimba arpeggio, but there it is.

It almost seems as if "Blue Orchid" is a publicity stunt in itself - a single that tempts buyers with a promise of cymbal crashing rock perfection, while the rest of the record is a mélange of slower, stranger numbers that have nothing in common with track one. As a means to create buzz, it works. As the first song on the album, it's jarring.

"Blue Orchid" notwithstanding, Get Behind Me Satan is packed with eerie ballads about Rita Hayworth, sexy ghosts and, in the opening lines of "Instinct Blues," streetwise animals: "Well the crickets get it/and the ants get it/I'll bet you the pigs get it." First impressions may have you thinking these songs are weak in the rhythm section, but the more you listen the more you hear the signature stomp that cuts through most of the Stripes' work. "As Ugly As I Seem" is mostly acoustic, but the lack of percussion is tantalizing - you can imagine for yourself what it would sound like if it appeared on White Blood Cells or even Elephant. Whether the songs are understated or punchy like "The Denial Twist" and "Red Rain," most of the album is founded on classic White Stripes simplicity.

On the other hand, there are weird moments to every song. The aforementioned "Red Rain" is inexplicably heavy with vocal tremolo, as if Jack is smiling when he should be snarling. "Instinct Blues" passes up "Ball and Biscuit"-sized guitar solo opportunities, giving the track a boring, laundry list feel, and "Little Ghost" is a fucking hoedown knee-slapper (though the line, "The first moment that I met her/I did not expect a specter" is pretty cute). At times, these moments feel inspired, but it is almost as if the oddities are placed so that their more mainstream music-loving fans feel smarter for "getting it."

By the time you get to the closing track, "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)," the piano rag routine has grown old. While most would tell you this album is their most diverse, often it is also their weariest. I was hoping for an outro to bring back the frenzy of the opening song - to return to the city after a holiday in the country, hang up the wide-brimmed hat and rustic mustachio - but "I'm Lonely" has me afraid that the Stripes have gone afield for good.

Get Behind Me Satan is the first White Stripes album that sputters because it's the first White Stripes album that tries to sell their image instead of their music. I'd prefer Jack to leave the craziness to his personal life: produce a jaw harp album, star in a remake of Little House on the Prarie and grow an outdated goatee - just please get back to the spine-melting rock in your spare time.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown



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