Fans who feared the White Stripes would go slack - we were told, after all, that Jack White was writing his new songs on piano and marimba, for Pete's sake - are rejoicing right now, cranking the volume on a record as muscular and gutsy as its title: Get Behind Me Satan.
That's not to say it's all rawk. Far from it. The album combines familiar Stripes sounds with Cold Mountain hillbilly music and some stuff that White's extracurricular activities didn't quite prep us for. Sure, the lyrics "you took a wild orchid and turned it blue" could easily have been found in a sad Loretta Lynn outtake from the White-produced Van Lear Rose. But the song containing them here, "Blue Orchid," is a stomping freakshow - one that only gets weirder when it ends abruptly in favor of "The Nurse," which takes that pensive marimba and sets it against ragged bursts of guitar and cymbal.
The grabbiest stuff is at the start: Those two tracks, the genuinely touching lament "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)," and "My Doorbell," a step-up-to-the-plate taunt that will get you chanting along before you're done listening the first time through. But the rest of the disc has Jack and Meg trying on various song genres that somehow slide nicely together; they make up a new dance on "The Denial Twist," teach young girls how to live their lives on "Passive Manipulation," and dip into their best Led Zep mutations early and often.
And, although it's really irrelevant, they even find a way to hold on to that white-black-red color scheme for yet another album without it looking old. It looks pretty bad-ass, actually; like the music the packaging contains, it's proof that there's a whole lot of stuff left to discover about this band that struck some as a gimmick the first time or two out of the gate.
By John DeFore