It's remarkable that after a half-decade of audacity, eccentricity and pulverizing hype, the White Stripes still manage to sneak up and genuinely surprise us. Get Behind Me Satan begins with the blasé Dude We're Rockin' Out Dude single "Blue Orchid," but from there it gets infinitely better, not to mention weirder. "The Nurse" is a delicate shaker-and-marimba lullaby periodically and rudely interrupted by spastic fits of distortion and cymbal-bashing, like a blank tape with a reggae tune dubbed over hardcore. It's hilarious. Satan doesn't wield brutally awesome thrash-blues like Elephant did ("Instinct Blues" never quite detonates the way you wish it would), nor does it reach the childlike pop highlights of De Stijl or White Blood Cells. But the insanely catchy "My Doorbell" comes close in the latter case, further illustrating that someday Jack and Meg will write a full-blown kids' album, and it will outsell Frampton Comes Alive!.
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For now, it's outwit, outplay, outlast and outweird, from the cornball Appalachian folk anthem "Little Ghost" to the Rita Hayworth autograph yarn "Take, Take, Take" to the throwaway "Passive Manipulation" -- 34 seconds is the exact right amount of time to let Meg White sing. It's enough that the Stripes aren't repeating themselves yet -- Satan won't set the world aflame, but in its odd, subterranean way, it burns brightly all the same.