Beetween The Grooves: “Get Behind Me Satan” by the White Stripes

The Nostalgia

Get Behind Me Satan came out in 2005. My parents had been divorced for about a year and I was shortly to enter my sophomore year of high school.

At that time, there was this great channel on tv called the International Music Feed. IMF grabbed videos from all over the world to showcase all kinds of music and it was awesome. I discovered a couple of excellent musicians this way, including British band Kasier Chiefs and post-punkers Rise Against. I’m pretty sure that’s also one of the ways M.I.A. and Rihanna first burst into the living rooms of American listeners, but don’t quote me on that.

One day, a certain video comes on IMF (amongst other channels). It’s for a song called “Blue  Orchid” and it absolutely got stuck in my head for a week. The song starts off with a killer double bass drum fade-in and jumps immediately into a thumping, whining pile of Jack White’s messed-up, double-tracked guitar and Meg White’s simple but enthusiastic drums.

Like I said, this music got stuck in my head. for a while. I caught myself jumping around my father’s (freshly purchased and highly uncomfortable) house because “Blue Orchid” was playing in the back of my head. It was one of the better things about that summer.

The video also made quite an impression on me. It’s a blurry, disjointed, semi-gothic trip through a dilapidated house with some strange characters indeed–Jack and Meg in wild getups, a mysterious lady in uncomfortable shoes, and a horse. Prior to the White Stripes, my primary musical interest was Linkin Park–so in many ways, I didn’t realize all the possibilities held by other genres of music.

So this song caught my attention. but the Stripes didn’t become a full-blown love of mine until a coworker of my father’s gave unto me a gift which will always live in the gratitude of my heart: the entire White Stripes studio discography up to that point(minus their eopnymous debut album), burned onto a couple of CDs and impeccably labelled. (If by any chance you’re reading this, Julie, thanks again. I still have those CDs.) [ Editors note: Me Too –Andrew]

The story continues, however: those CDs were copied a few times over and given to my two closest friends at the time, and the music of the White Stripes became an integral part of our relationships, even up until the present time.

The Review

“Blue Orchid” is the opener for the album and it’s a strong, enticing track. Like I said earlier, this is the song that got me into the Stripes in the first place, so it holds a special place in my memory. It contrasts pretty heavily with “The Nurse,” with its mellow xylophone and general understatement (except for the occasional crashing cymbals). The whole album is like that in places–fast, heavy songs contrasted with slower, lighter ones.

“My Doorbell” has a catchy-as-all-hell beat and is just a fun song. Great lyrics, too–very confident. The fourth track, “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)” is a melancholy broken-heart sort of song with some of the best lyrics on the whole album. It endorses exactly the kind of romantic (small r) escapism that might just appeal to a trio of misfit nerds stuck in a tiny redneck town. (Not that I would have any experience with that.)

“Little Ghost” is a quick, poetic song on the high register. It’s only a minute and a half, so there’s not a lot to contemplate, but if you like Stripes songs that edge more on the country side, this one is for you. (Also, it’s extremely cute.)

Number six, “The Denial Twist,” starts off with just Jack’s voice, his piano, and a deep drum beat, and adds more instrumental complexity (including a little bass) as the song continues. That makes for an interesting listen, and the lyrics tell a strong story of a messed-up relationship. A great track. Additionally, the video features late night tv host Conan O’Brien.

“White Moon” swings back to the low, slow side of the album with mournful piano and understated drums. It rises periodically to cymbal-heavy high points, and contains a few of the markers of the White Stripes canon: references to Rita Hayworth and previous songs. The lyrics on this one are a little more obscure than most Stripes songs, but highly poetic.
As for the next track, “Instinct Blues”…well, I have a story about this one. I was once told that Jack wrote it out of sexual frustration. I think that probably says all that needs to be said about it. Just listen.

“Passive Manipulation” is one of the Stripes’ few songs where Meg sings lead vocals. It’s very short but very pleasant, and carries an important message (I think).

 

“Take, Take, Take” tells the story of an evening well spent and features some interesting stereoscopic work. A fun listen, especially with headphones.

“As Ugly as I Seem” is another low-key track. The muted drums and slight guitar help to emphasize Jack’s vocals even though he sings pretty quietly. Later in the song, the guitar work gets quite complex.

“Red Rain” alternates between frantic and subdued and to this day remains somewhat incomprehensible to me. It’s fine enough to listen to but I’ve never been certain what to think about it.

The final track is “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t that Lonely Yet)” and it features an extra-soulful Jack on piano. The piano work is exquisite and some of my favorite on the album. It makes an excellent endcap for an excellent album.

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