Stripes’ latest investigates the truth, comes up raw

Songwriter and instrumentalist Jack White says “Get Behind Me Satan” is an investigation of “characters and the ideal truth.”

And an investigation it is. “Get Behind Me Satan,” released June 7, is the fifth lovechild of the White Stripes, comprised of White and his ex-wife, Meg White. As a marimba-striking, piano-jamming, guitar-twanging duo, they prove themselves worthy of considerable attention amid the irony of the so-called “modern” age of retro rock.

In exploring this truth, the White Stripes expose the skeletal structure of their music, from the raw-edged timbre of the tambourine in “My Doorbell” to the chord-struck phrases of “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).” The introduction of “Instinct Blues” sounds like warm-up exercises a blues guitarist performs while waiting for a bar to fill up. Such elements shed light on the musical process and all of its elements, piecing them together in a modern retro rock fashion.

But this focus on the construction of music also has its share of not-so-brilliant moments. Jack calls attention not only to his unprocessed crooning, but also to his Ozzy-esque wailing in “Red Rain.” This form of tracheal liberation echoes earlier tracks, such as “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell In Love With A Girl.” On “We’re Going To Be Friends,” on “White Blood Cells,” Jack’s vocal chords assumed a more lyrical, folk-influenced quality.

And maybe this is what gives the White Stripes an advantage in the modern music industry. The constant variation in tonal qualities, juxtaposed with the rooted simplicity of their instrumentation, provides listeners with a vague notion of what may come next.

But surprises always lurk around the corner.

— Janet Oh