AKA Get Behind Me, Mr. Trump.
Woah, Milo’s doing another one.
Sooner or later, my music reviews are gonna become more commonplace, so I’m going to have to think of a new way to start these, crap.
As most bands go, The White Stripes are most definitely up there as my favourites. While the predominance of their early music isn’t relatively challenging, it remains a high point whenever it comes on when I’m listening to my phone on shuffle. They infuse a high amount of energy into all of their songs so they never fail to make at least one of my limbs move rhythmically. This is done through fast paced riffs, courtesy of guitarist/vocalist and creative force Jack White, who is brilliant in whatever he does, and drummer Meg White’s painfully simple yet infectiously loud beats. Now, in the past, I have criticised Meg for her simple drumming, but, admittedly, it does make up a key part of The White Stripes’ raucous sound, which I adore.
However, in the latter part of their career, The White Stripes began to become more experimental in their sound. This isn’t felt more than in their penultimate effort, Get Behind Me Satan. With Jack trying out piano, mandolin and even a lil’ bit of marimba, it promises to be unique in his already stellar discography.
You know when I said this album was all different and experimental? Yeah, the first track doesn’t really help that claim. The first single from the album, Blue Orchid is extremely White Stripesy, with the track opening with an absolute KILLER riff from Jack. It also shows the progression in vocals from him since Elephant, as he sings with a lot more attitude than in any other Stripes outings. I think this album and 2007’s Icky Thump is where Jack White came into his own as a vocalist. The rhythm section, though nothing complex, was completely in time and not too prominant, as to distract from the guitar. The song serves as a brilliant opener that snatches the listener’s attention and can attract new fans before getting into the weird stuff. On top of that, we’ve got a brilliant, surreal, Burton-esque video by none other than Flora Sigismondi, the mind behind the videos for The Beautiful People, Supermassive Black Hole and a plethora of other songs.
Bringing the experimentalness, The Nurse opens with what I presume to be that marimba, I don’t really know what a marimba sounds like, but if it sounds like a steel drum mixed with a piano then that’s what I’m hearing at the start of this track. The marimba is a constant throughout the song, with maracas being the main source of rhythm. We also get a more familiar Jack White vocal performance. However, it is interrupted by some harsh guitar strikes which, while completely ruining the tone of the song, provide some point of interest to what could’ve been a bit of a noodly track.
Following that, My Doorbell, the album’s second single, is less of an experimental track than The Nurse, but still takes the band out of their comfort zone, switching out the guitar for a piano based riff. Though the piano is undoubtedly pleasant to the ear, it seems a little bit inoffensive for Stripes’ song, as I’m used to distorted guitar rather than a lil’ piano ditty. Meg White’s drumming is more of a highlight than expected, especially during the start of the song, with a lot of thumping bass going on. However, the biggest highlight of the song is easily the vocals, courtesy of Jack, which is definitely the best on the album up until that point. However, it is slightly spoiled as it mixed really quietly near the end of the song, with maracas, again, being seemingly loudest.
Probably the first dud on the album for me, Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) is a bit of a mopey acoustic ballad. It sounds fine, bit of acoustic guitar, bit of piano, bit of that sweet, sweet marimba, it’s all alright. However, the standout of the song is probably the drumming, with some great uses of crash in the chorus.
Another song that isn’t really my cup o’ tea, Little Ghost is another acoustic song. However, it’s much more jovial, with a western/country feel to it. I found the guitar to be a bit too country, as I did the vocals. Fans of the western genre might get a kick out of it, yet I’m not one of ’em.
However, after two lackluster songs, the song The Denial Twist, coincidentally the third and final single, brought it back in a big way. Like the majority of the album, Jack switches out the electric guitar for a piano but somehow manages to rock just as hard on this song especially. The bluesy attitude felt throughout the track is brilliantly infectious, with an abundance of energy coming from the cymbal heavy drumming from Meg. This has all come together with a music video from long time collaberator Michel Gondry (Fell In Love With A Girl) to make it one of, if not, my favourite song on the album.
That being said, whatever momentum was built in The Denial Twist was immediately lost in the next song, White Moon, a softer, even mopier piano ballad. What else can say apart from the weak piano (not in ability, in technique), quiet vocals, even the sobbing here and there. If there was a standout of the song, it would be the choruses, in which a bit of crashing drumming kicks in and I’m reminded that I’m listening to a White Stripes song, rather than a flippin’ Coldplay song or summat.
Increasing the energy, which isn’t particularly hard after a song like White Moon, Instinct Blues serves as a well needed rock track to retain the interest of more close minded listeners. Wow, I sounded like an actual knobgoblin then. Sorry. However, that doesn’t make it all the more true. Jack breaks out the electric guitar to deliver something a bit more orientated on LOUDNESS. Surprisingly, however, I didn’t really like it, which shocked myself actually. Nonetheless, the bluesy guitar is fine, not my kind of style but y’know, but Jack’s lyrics and vocals began to grate on me, as did Meg’s tedious drumming. It’s the only the song on the album I’d hazard to call maybe even a little bit lazy.
After that, we get a short musical interlude in the form of the song Passive Manipulation. With Meg singing, we get some feminist-sounding lyrics and a catchy piano chord progression in the background. A notable lil’ bit of summat, the song loops almost perfectly unto itself. So, there.
Bringing the album back onto its two feet, Take Take Take is another piano driven song with an absolutely awesome chord progression and a lovely bit of acoustic guitar in the background providing the rhythm along with the standard drumming. Jack’s vocals are great and go hand-in-hand with those aforementioned chords, which are definitely the highlight of the song.
Another acoustic number, As Ugly As I Seem isn’t as samey as others on the album, however, as there is some remarkable happenings going on in the rhythm section on this track, with Meg White doing some mad tricks with the bongos, giving it one of the most memorable beats on the album. On top of that, Jack’s vocals and guitar, while nothing outstandingly amazing, are nothing to frown at, coupling together nicely to make an overall positive track, harkening back to songs like We’re Going To Be Friends, now that I think about it.
Increasing the number of electric guitar songs to a hefty three, Red Rain manages to pack more of a punch than Instinct Blues while also reminding me of something from Elephant. However, that doesn’t really mean anything as, like Instinct Blues, the song relies on noise rather than actual melodies. While does have a riff, it is extremely whiny and grates on me quite quickly, similar is the case with the vocals and drumming.
Closing the album, I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet) is another piano ballad, however, in the context of the album, it serves as quite a nice closer to the album. Lacking any drums, the song consists of Jack White singing about the stuff he loves (he even mentions how much he loves amateur review sites run by inexperienced teenage boys, so y’know) and playing a nice little ditty on pia-pia-piano. Anywhere else in the album, I probably wouldn’t like it, but it does serves as a lovely, sentimental final song.
Overall, The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan is definitely not your standard fare from the band. Filled to the brim with acoustic numbers and piano ballads, it’s quite a mixed bag. While this album does have it’s fair share of duds, there are a good number of great songs, some of which are some of the best the band has produced. It’s worth a listen if you’re a fan of The White Stripes or if you aren’t, there’s a little something for everyone, really. ‘Cept for gangsta reggae trance two-tone, which is a shame.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations