Sound — 10
With each successive album, the Detroit duo seem to be expanding their sound into different directions, but they are always some form of American music. While the previous albums have centered mainly on southern blues, rock, and a litle country, GBMS shows that the Stripes are a one-of-a-kind American band, from the piano R&B of My Doorbell and the bluegrass of Little Ghost to the anthematic Take, Take, Take and country-western of I'm Lonely. The most bizarre song, The Nurse, definitely takes some getting used to, but the marimba lead and the sporadic spurts of electric guitar are unlike anything on any other record by any other band. What amazes me most about this record is the Whites' apparent rejection of rock conventions while paradoxically making a collection of music inspired by American musical tradition.
Lyrics — 10
What attracts me most to the White Stripes is that while they play a wide range of musical sounds (see above) on this album and their others, their lyrics somehow always stay the same. And I mean this in a completely positive way. On GBMS, Jack never leaves his major themes of love, childhood, God, and self-doubt, but he drives deeper into them. The opening song, Blue Orchid, features a falsetto Jack (don't worry traditional-Stripers, he returns to his nasal-driven voice that we all know and love soon by track 2) reprimanding Satan, and it resonates well. Many of the songs on this album focus on Jack looking at himself, and he does so pretty objectively, as evident on As Ugly As I Seem. His attempt at a country voice on Little Ghost and I'm Lonely works beautifully (I should know, I'm a southerner) as well. The references to Rita Hayward on Take, Take, Take evoke images of a young man enthralled with the seemingly monolithic status of a cultural legend, from a time period which Jack White seems to wish he were from. The weakest track, Passive Manipulation, is a thirty-five second command for women to take charge sung by Meg White, whose vocal skills are lacking but strangely make sense in the medium. The song's brevity and quick lead into the next track characterizes nearly every song on this album: good by itself, but excellent when listened to in sequence as a complete album. Best song lyrically is, without a doubt, As Ugly As I Seem.
Overall Impression — 10
The most important thing to remember about Get Behind Me Satan is that it is meant to be an album, not a collection of songs. Listen to it several times before you make judgments, because it definitely grows on you. It is the unlikely follow-up to the monumental Elephant (one of the greatest rock albums of all time), but it is unfair to say that it is not as good as its predecessor. Each White Stripes album serves its own purpose, independent of the others. The eponymous debut introduced the band's sound; De Stijl pushed the limits of simplicity (as strange as that sounds); White Blood Cells was rooted in lyrical quality; and Elephant was meant to ensure that the White Stripes would earn their place in the pantheon of bands that excel above all others; Get Behind Me Satan expands their sound and allows the minimalist duo to have fun. That's the feeling I got from listening: they like the music they recorded. Standout songs: My Doorbell, As Ugly As I Seem, I'm Lonely (but I Ain't That Lonely Yet). I can't stress enough the importance of listening to this album with an open mind, and I am sure if you enjoy music, you will find this an essential addition to your collection.