The Dead Weather: Horehound Track-By-Track Album Review

Jack White has yet another bleedin' side project, this time with The Kills' Alison Mosshart. Hazel Sheffield gives their debut album Horehound the track-by-track treatment

Get too close to Jack White and you’ll accidentally make an album, as the saying goes. Here, The Kills’ Allison Mosshart picks up the mic while Queens Of The Stone Age multi-intstrumentalist Dean Fertita and The Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence take care of guitars and bass respectively. White drives this beast from the drum stool. The Quietus offers its verdict.

’60 Feet Tall’

Pinch harmonic. Drum Roll. Feedback. Here commenceth the next tome in the nine lives of Jack White. Dry rim clatter and a bending four-note riff introduce this stark blues, with Mosshart’s sultry vocal not far behind. "You’ve got my attention, you’ve got it all," she breathes, all cigarette croak and gutsy howl. The verse stretches on, self-assured through the repeat, before Mosshart squeals as she’s elbowed out the way by a million watts of distortion from Fertita. Fade out, and focus — the boys are doing all the attention grabbing here.

‘Hang You From The Heavens’

Tighter now for a farewell to the blues — this is the lead single and its bass hacksaws to a metronome crack. Three notes and a syncopated flourish on guitar punctuate Mosshart’s dirty vows for revenge. There’s some detail here that suggests that Fertita’s been torturing instruments of indefinite origin until they scream, but it hangs from a garage ceiling once crafted by Mosshart’s partner-in-crime Jamie Hince, so much the better for sticking to the most elemental, pedal-shredded components.

‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’

Hello, Hammond! An organ punching straight out the Dylan book-of-how-to ricochets through Buffalo. Gothic punk spattered with vocal stabs fit snugly to a delicately funky bass, and White joins Mosshart for a dalliance on vocal, rooting her sometimes top-heavy drawl. It’s pretty dark stuff featuring some realistic death-spluttering from the lady, which will keep those dubious of her talents amused. Makes a change from the nonsensical lyrics that permeate this album – incidentally does anybody know exactly how one might cut like a buffalo?

‘So Far From Your Weapon’

Back to the blues again, ‘. . . Weapon’ tickers with surprising subtlety after the schmaltz of the organ. Mosshart leads a call and response with the band, as the track rolls towards crescendos and falls back again. Everything but the vocal and White’s splashy cymbal hang ominously in the background. Horehound bleeds White – and his return to the kit, where his career started as the drummer for Detroit punk outfit Goober and The Peas in 1990. By all accounts, he likes it there – driving the whole album from the backseat.

‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’

Track five would’ve fit nicely into a Raconteurs album if the Raconteurs were slightly more brutal – bassist Jack Lawrence must feel very at home here. This one’s a no holds barred shouter that chucks a tempo change in mid-track to wind itself up even further. Bang! It’s a bit dull, actually.

‘Rocking Horse’

Lawrence introduces this little western film score with some nice pizzicato bass. Fertita likes it too, and copies it on guitar for a bit, with plenty of obligatory reverberating guitar riffs spread over the top to set the scene. White and Mosshart share vocals through the gauze of a transistor mic, adding to the cinematography. It’s a pleasant desert detour for a record that could all to easily sit in its own self-gratifying gothic swill, but soon spins back into distortion alley for some Mephistophelean musings…

‘New Pony’

One of Dylan’s more whimsical yarns is cranked up here – replacing cheery Motown backing singers of the Street Legal original with forced vocal stabs. Mosshart sounds particularly strained, quite the petulant child demanding her lame pony come hither – it’s a low point for her overall. This is an odd twist on a track intended for novelty – proving that White really can stamp his particularly distinctive sound on anything and make it sound like, well, Jack White.

‘Bone House’

"Always get the things I want," Mosshart shouts, not entirely shedding the obnoxious brat from New Pony. Bone House chugs and whines behind the rapping vocal before a strange guitar solo that oscillates between octaves not unlike firework squeals. This is more filler, but it was bound to happen on an album that exploded mid-tour and took just fifteen days to reassemble onto record back in Nashville.

‘3 Birds’

Instrumental. Fertita picks up keys to usher us back into the desert – but put away your pistol, this time the tumbleweed is warped by Hunter S. Thompson’s stretched and swirling lysergia. This is what the Wild West becomes after the world has ended, all psychedelic foreboding and static tension.

‘No Hassle Night’

Guitars hang on to their natural sound by the teeth here, each riff dismantled by jet-engine distortion. White goes crash cymbal crazy, while Mosshart (finally) relents from trying to imitate White’s high frequency squeal and settles on her much more accomplished airless and broken purr. It’s a steal, clocking in under three minutes, but leaves no doubt of the scarlet woman’s intentions.

‘Will There Be Enough Water’

Some sullen balladry to round things off – and White’s return to guitar in clean, improvised solos adds colour to a very subdued piano blues. There’s nothing cocky about this final track, with its repeated snarling, "just because you caught me, doesn’t mean it’s a sin." Its ease on the ear – much like the rest of this album – testifies to the accidental polish of band members familiar with the most intimate of each other’s musical habits. And again, just like on the rest of the album, Mosshart is a visitor here – a momentary muse for the Midas touch of White: himself the pallid anti-hero of retrospective American rock.

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