The Dead Weather
(Third Man/Warner Bros.)
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2009, Volume 16, #9
Written by John Metzger
Thu September 17, 2009, 06:35 AM CDT
Jack White is certainly a very strange cat. One minute, he’s cavorting with country legend Loretta Lynn; the next moment, he’s dancing with the Devil and conjuring demons from the bowels of Hell. Horehound — the debut from White’s latest project The Dead Weather — falls squarely into the latter camp. Over the course of the endeavor, the band — which is a collaboration of sorts among White, The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita, and The Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence — relentlessly rumbles through its metallic blues-rock songs. In the process, The Dead Weather creates an ominous onslaught of grimy grooves that release their tension only in short, explosive bursts.
From its violence-strewn lyrics to White’s and Mosshart’s ferociously sneering vocals, Horehound is designed to deliver its goods with shock-and-awe precision. White has never shown a tendency toward crafting complex songs, arrangements, or albums. He hits hard and fast, then diverts his attention to his next move. In this sense, Horehound isn’t any different, though it does have one distinctive twist: White allows Fertita to toss sonic shrapnel from his guitar, while he relegates himself to propelling the material with a series of thunderously convulsive rhythmic beats.
Circling around various incarnations of the blues, The Dead Weather moves from the spooky, Southern textures of 60 Feet Tall to I Cut Like a Buffalo’s Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired blend of rap, metal, and funk to the Jane’s Addiction-style powerhouse rock of Treat Me Like Your Mother. For good measure, a haunted, chilling cover of Bob Dylan’s New Pony is tucked into the middle of Horehound. Odd as it may seem, the tune feels comfortably at home amidst the boisterous mayhem unleashed by the band. The Dead Weather’s music is visceral, raw, and stuffed full of dread, danger, and angst. This, of course, provides a perfect soundtrack for the anger, obsession, and sexual tension that deliriously emanate from the group’s lyrics.
Initially, Horehound comes crashing through the ceiling like an untamed beast. Lawrence’s bass riffs shatter the windows, while White’s pounding percussion patterns rip up the floorboards. Meanwhile, Mosshart and Fertita get busy thrashing everything — and everyone — in sight. It is an understatement, then, to say that the album is cranky, ornery, and unwieldy.
Strangely, though, the more time that one spends with Horehound, the more the endeavor begins to lose its grip. Even worse, once its punch is diminished, there’s nothing else to discover. Weak on melodies and lacking depth, Horehound is simply a hollow vessel, one that was left behind to rot after its soul vacated the premises. White has shown that he can do better than this, but considering how much slack he typically is given these days, he doesn’t have to bother trying too hard.
Of Further Interest...
Horehound is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box