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Reviews

The Dead Weather
Horehound AP Childs , July 14th, 2009 10:06

Given that Jack White's previous foray outside The White Stripes was the lamentable Raconteurs (one half-hearted summer festival sing-a-long such as 'Steady As She Goes' does not a great band make), it was hard not to shudder and fear the worst when he announced the onset of The Dead Weather. White's heightened position in the rock establishment now allows him to present us with yet another supergroup, those largely dull affairs that zap the life out of fans, press and A&R execs alike.

Yet alongside Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), Raconteurs colleague Jack Lawrence and Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Jack White has seemingly knocked us for six with an album layered with his trademark swampiness but also a surprising depth of field in song craft, musicianship, space, time and lyrical content. The Dead Weather's Horehound is a complex affair, and indeed displays dour and downright depressing moments, but largely makes for a crackling listen, snapping and popping at you from the off. It elevates, disturbs, annoys and settles the soul in equal measures.

The band definitely belongs to White. He leads from the rear, allowing the mesmerising Mosshart to handle most of the vocal responsibility. Opener '60 Feet Tall' comes in slow but with a snarl, Mosshart displaying an earthy, laid back aplomb oddly reminiscent of Gene Vincent on 'Be Bop A Lula'. A silly pikan at the BBC recently suggested it was a mistake, and ruination of the project, to have Mosshart fronting this group. But her voice is not thin as some might say; it is deep, soul-edged, always tuneful and most importantly full of the blues.

Horehound moves on with a stroppy collision of crunchy Black Sabbath riffs, Led Zep licks and White's simple but powerhouse drumming. Mosshart's screeching vocals on single 'Treat Me Like Your Mother' smash and bash the listener to pieces. More exhilarating stuff comes with 'Rocking Horse', its robust groove followed by a raucous – and maybe misguided – take on Dylan's 'New Pony'. 'No Hassle Tonight' is a duff that clearly needs more work. The album, it's boasted, was apparently recorded in a fortnight – clearly a mistake when there are these signs of a job half done. The atmospheric maritime prayer 'Will There Be Enough Water?' tapers the album off with a nice enough feel; but unfortunately, it's something of an anti-climax. You're left wanting another track of the quality of 'Treat Me Like Your Mother' to seal the deal. Ne'mind.

With more thought and more time spent in the studio, and providing White stays put behind the drum kit rather letting his ego jump on the mic, it's possible that this could become more than a side project that, after one release, becomes dead in the water. Here's hoping we'll be seeing more of The Dead Weather.

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