Release Date: Jul 14, 2009
Record label: WEA/Reprise
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Jack White's new project erupts with chemistry.
As if the blues weren’t already dark enough. For the entirety of the Dead Weather’s debut album, Horehound, Jack White—who, in a commendable show of ego control, relegates himself to the drum stool for this, a sure-to-be successful supergroup (dirty word, I know) he somehow managed to cobble together in the downtime between fronting two of the only signs of life in today’s alt-rock landscape—Alison Mosshart and company are visibly determined to imbue an art form which is already obsessed with depression, loss, and all manner of cheerful things with even inkier shades of the human condition. And yet, for all the stuff that could go wrong with a band that labels itself with the near redundancy “gothic blues”, a band that, given its pedigree, many people will be itching to peg as a one-off, indulgent vanity project (short answer: it’s not).
Pretty much every city in North America has an FM radio station boasting a slogan along the lines of "Where Classic Rock Lives!" But really, these are the places where classic rock goes to die, fossilized onto playlists that haven't been updated since the second Black Crowes album. You think it's hard getting attention for your psych-folk-disco-shitgaze collective? Try being an up-and-coming meat-and-potatoes blues-rock band, who are shut out from both hipster-blog discourse and the sort of mainstream media channels that theoretically should be nurturing them. Most people laughed at the Blueshammer scene in Ghost World; me, I just felt sorry for those dudes-- because once they leave that bar, there's really nowhere else for them to go.
Knowing that Jack White is going to do the unexpected is like knowing the Detroit Lions are going to be terrible every year; it’s really a matter of how surprised or disappointed you are. White followed up the White Stripes’ second commercial juggernaut, Elephant, with an album light on guitars and heavy on down-tempo barhouse piano numbers (Get Behind Me Satan). Then he followed up a mishmash, but charming, album with the Raconteurs (Broken Boy Soldiers) with a shockingly milquetoast record that sounded like the second coming of AM rock (Consolers of the Lonely).
Jack White’s newest foursome leaves behind the arena experimentation of the Raconteurs? in favor of post?Icky Thump notions of what a gender-swapped White Stripes might be. White has found his distaff mirror in the androgynous alto of Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart, at times mixing her vocals to be indistinguishable from his own; there’s palpable relief as ? he splashes about behind the drums — where he sat in his very first band — happily dispensing the melodic duties to others. The first half of Horehound is just weird enough to be utterly mesmerizing, a series of ominous, fuzzed-out psycho-blues riffs that climax in the tremendous Rush-meets-Jay-Z rave-up of ”Treat Me Like Your Mother.
Expectations for a project featuring members of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Kills, and Queens of the Stone Age would almost have to run high. After all, these are all bands that find ways to draw on the classic tenets of rock without sounding completely indebted to the past. Yet the Dead Weather -- which combines the talents of Jack White, Jack Lawrence, Alison Mosshart, and Dean Fertita -- aren't so much concerned with living up to expectations as they are about defying them.
I’ll just come right out and say it – I love Jack White like a little (er…big) brother. I think he may be the most relevant and talented musician on the planet today. Does that make me more or less qualified to judge his music? Hardcore fans are usually either overly accepting of anything their heroes produce, or overly critical. Not really knowing which camp I fall into, I thought the Dead Weather would be a good way to see which polarized view triggers in my brain.
No sooner does he establish his White Stripes side project, the Raconteurs, as a fully fledged band, than the restless Jack White unveils his latest project, the Dead Weather. On past form, he has proved himself to be a master stylist with a retro fetish who has turned his DIY music-making ambitions into commercial gold. He has already described this record as "gothic blues" but he was also clearly thinking (consciously or not) of the Gun Club and the dead-man-walking tone of Jeffrey Lee Pierce's baleful punk-blues ballads.
Earlier this week, the Onion o?ered a musical news?ash. "Jack White Teams Up With NBA Commissioner David Stern in Latest Side Project" ran the headline, above a story that White was about to release an album called Confederation of Seven under the name Lakota Brick: "According to the 33-year-old White, Lakota Brick consists of himself, primarily on reed organ, and Stern, 66, on vocals and electric guitar. " It's hard to suppress a smile, given the imminent arrival of the Dead Weather's album, Horehound.
A combination of a prolific workrate and that ever-present punk rock guilt goes into the debut album by Jack White’s newest band The Dead Weather, which arrives with limited advertising and almost no pre-release performances, roughly six months after the quartet formally assembled. The result of a phone call between White and Alison Mosshart, singer of – can we say – post-White Stripes outfit The Kills, White’s Raconteurs bandmate Jack Lawrence and Queens Of The Stone Age keyboardist Dean Ferita make up the foursome. The Dead Weather wouldn’t call themselves a supergroup, of course, but nor would anyone else, so let’s run with it.