White Stripes, The Apes break away from tradition
Two years after "Elephant" stampeded through nearly every conceivable media outlet, the White Stripes are back with the ominously titled "Get Behind Me Satan." God-fearing listeners need not worry about sacrilegious content, but longtime fans may...
Two years after "Elephant" stampeded through nearly every conceivable media outlet, the White Stripes are back with the ominously titled "Get Behind Me Satan." God-fearing listeners need not worry about sacrilegious content, but longtime fans may cry for blood as the band seems to have lost a bit of its bite.
Was it leader Jack White's work on and in the movie "Cold Mountain," - and the subsequent relationship with co-star Renée Zellweger - that melted his heart? Was it his work producing country grande dame Loretta Lynn's Grammy-winning "Van Lear Rose" that tuned the Detroit tunesmith's ear to twang? Or was it the incredible success of "Elephant" that corrupted the White's indie soul?
The big shift is in Jack's musical references.
The duo started out in the late 1990s as a post-punk, blues-based, garage rock band. Since then, the singer/guitarist has broadened his reception, taking in frequencies from all corners of America.
While the first four White Stripes albums were largely a three-pronged attack of guitar, drums and vocals, Jack adds piano and marimba to his arsenal.
The fuzzy guitar romps still exist, accompanying his shrieking on "Red Rain" and the first single, "Blue Orchid." (Yes, in case this is your introduction to the White Stripes, the group schemes on color.) Just as soon as Jack plugs in and turns up the amps, he's likely to plunk on the marimba as he does on the punchy "The Nurse" and the plaintive "Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)."
Jack unplugs entirely on the hoe-down "Little Ghost," which sounds like a "Cold Mountain" outtake and the country piano piece "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)." With Jack spending more time on solo piano and acoustic pieces, Meg's future as drummer comes into question. Her rudimentary skills as a tempo-keeper and 35-second vocal turn on "Passive Manipulation" suggest her real role is the kewpie-faced muse for Jack and poster girl for drooling fan boys. She is the hipster Ringo.
The Apes also break the vocals, guitar, bass and drum format, replacing the six-strings with Amanda Kleinman's Hammond Organ. The eerie carnival addition makes the group's new album "Baba's Mountain," sound like a soundtrack to "Scooby Doo meets the Blair Witch."
The creepy concept album follows a mountain cult in a green bus plotting revenge on the town below. The Washington, D.C., four-piece exact some sonic justice on Fargo when it plays the Moose Lodge tonight.
Live, the group has been known to play in simian masks and in the studio they are just as dramatic. Riding the punishing bass lines of Erick Jackson and Jeff Schmid's drum pummeling on tracks like "Imp Ahh" and "Can U Handle This," Kleinman's psychedelic keys make the tunes comically macabre. The aptly-titled five-minute dirge "Organ Sap," suggests the outcome if Black Sabbath had acquired Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord.
"Baba's Mountain" is not a ride for the faint of heart. It can be a grueling trek, haunting in its abstractly ominous landscape.
Meanwhile when Jack White sings, "I've been thinking about my doorbell/ When you gonna ring it?" some fans may ask the singer when he's going to ring their bell again.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
John Lamb at (701) 241-5533
"Get Behind Me Satan"
The White Stripes
Out of four stars
Out of four stars