Bad news for satan: Jack White’s mama said knock you out. Get Behind Me Satan is a Biblical reference, plus a possible invitation to back-door action with the Prince of Darkness. But the music is so wild, it could make you weep over how pitilessly the Stripes keep crushing the other bands out there. Having clocked all rivals, the Stripes have to settle for topping their 2003 masterpiece, Elephant, the way Elephant topped White Blood Cells. If you happen to be a rock band, and you don’t happen to be either of the White Stripes, it so sucks to be you right now.
The Stripes twist a variety of American music styles to their own emotional purpose, figuring out new ways to howl about their romantic torments. For Jack, this means seething, stripped-down ballads full of piano and marimba. For Meg White, it mostly means beating the crap out of her cymbals. They stretch out in heavy guitar stomps (“Instinct Blues,” “Red Rain”), bluegrass (“Little Ghost”) and falsetto disco that resembles Foreigner (“Blue Orchid”). “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)” builds a fabulously seductive groove out of the simplest elements — acoustic guitar, marimba, an egg-shaker — as Jack begs, “Let’s do it/Let’s just get on a plane and do it.”
Is he singing to Meg? To Renee Zellweger? You might not want to find out, given the demented “As Ugly as I Seem,” where Jack broods over Buffalo Springfield-style folkie guitar and a melodic nod to Bob Dylan’s “I Believe in You.” Meg sings the brief yet chilling ditty “Passive Manipulation.” For the grand finale, “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet),” Jack sits down at the piano, heists one of the oldest country melodies in the book, wails about missing his mama and mulls over his romantic options: “She’s homely and she’s cranky and her hair’s in a net/I’m lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet.”
Jack sings about 1940s film goddess Rita Hayworth in two of his sultriest songs, “Take, Take, Take” and “White Moon.” She makes a perfect love idol for him, since he’s an avowed fan of Orson Welles, who was married to Hayworth long enough to direct her in the 1947 film-noir nightmare The Lady From Shanghai, one of the creepiest movies about marriage ever made. Get Behind Me Satan could be a rock & roll remake, starring Jack and Meg as the doomed lovers. Satan, you got served.