I must admit, when I got the White Stripes press release for their hotly anticipated fifth record, I rode a little roller coaster of emotions. First of all, the album title, Get Behind Me Satan is currently in the #1 slot for coolest fucking title of 05. But then you read that all the songs on Get Behind Me Satan were written on piano, acoustic guitar and... marimba. Marimba. Going into the swanky Splashlight Studios last night, the White Stripes fan portion of my rock and roll loving heart was a little nervous - but not for long. The lead track on GBMS, “Blue Orchid,” exploded through the room. Jack’s falsetto and ripping guitar combo is positively Zepp and Meg’s drum kit is apparently now made entirely of cymbals. This is not just the blues. This is Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and Danzig in an orgy of fantastic fucking rock. But, in a classic White Stripes move - see “There’s No Home For You Here” into “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” - the huge sound of “Blue Orchid” leads into the famed and feared marimba. “The Nurse” starts out sounding, I fear to even say it, like a calypso track. But in one of the most unexpected moments on the record, just when you’re reconciling bobbing your head to chimes, Jack slices in with an absolutely brutal distorted guitar chord. In and out, the guitar stabs into “The Nurse” as Meg’s drumming reaches an entirely new level of ferocity. If all the drumming on GBMS is truly the work of Meg and Meg alone, girl has been practicing.
It takes me about half way through the fourth track, “Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)” to realize that two tracks have passed and there has been none of Jack’s trademark screeching guitar lines. In fact, tracks three and four are completely without guitar. The guitar re-emerges on “Little Ghost,” but again, it’s not the guitar work White Stripes fans are used to. “Little Ghost,” and the fantastically titled final track, “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)” deliver on the this-is-what’s-great-about-country promise of the work Jack did with Loretta Lynn on Van Lear Rose. There are tracks on Get Behind Me Satan that will make new White Stripes fans happy. “Instinct Blues,” would fit right in between “Ball and Biscuit” and “Hardest Button to Button,” but what makes GBMS so exciting are the tracks that break off in an entirely new direction. From the staggering piano work on “My Doorbell,” to the unexpected plinking toy piano on “Red Rain,” to the jangling acoustic guitars on “Take, Take, Take,” (which name checks Rita Hayworth, how awesome is that?) the White Stripes have taken their brand of rock to a new and unexpected level. I went into Splashlight expecting "another White Stripes record," but what Jack and Meg have done on Get Behind Me Satan is to toy with what the world expects that to sound like. But rest assured, it sounds really fucking good.