The White Stripes are not Coldplay. They don't want to be Coldplay and this is not a competition. Coldplay will sell more records than the White Stripes; X + Y will trump Get Behind Me Satan on the charts. Was anyone expecting anything different? "Speed of Sound" and "Fix You" were written for the radio. "Little Ghost" and "Instinct Blues," were not. At their core White Stripes are a boy and a girl from Detroit who made a record on the cheap in two weeks. And what they emerged with is fucking good. By now, it's well known that all the songs on Get Behind Me Satan were written on piano, acoustic guitar and marimba and recorded with the typical no muss no fuss White Stripes attitude in Jack's Detroit home/recording studio. That is the story Get Behind Me Satan. Fuck the gossip pages, the sales pages, the soap-opera back-stories and the context. Get Behind Me Satan is the only record that could have come out of this band at this time.
Lead track on GBMS, "Blue Orchid," was leaked early and when Indie103 got their hands on it they played it six times in a row. I dare you to listen to that track for the first time and not hit repeat. 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 marimba intro of "The Nurse." The track starts out sounding 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," although the only high-pitched guitar solos here are expertly fumbling instead of assuredly screeching.
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. Get Behind Me Satan is unquestionably a White Stripes record, but Jack and Meg have successfully toyed with what the world expects that to sound like.