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The White Stripes

It's remarkable that after a half-decade of audacity, eccentricity, and pulverizing hype, the White Stripes still genuinely surprise us. Get Behind Me Satan begins with the blasé 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 fits of distortion and cymbal-bashing, like a reggae tape 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!

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.

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