Grateful for The Dead (Weather) – A review of the new Dead Weather album

by George

When their debut, Horehound, came out last year, I figured that the Dead Weather would just be another notch on the bedpost of musical projects for drummer/singer Jack White (see also The White Stripes & Raconteurs).  I was pleasantly surprised when I was greeted with a sleazy, leather-jacket wearing slab of 70’s style rock (they even put some Zep-style blues raunch on a Dylan tune).  It was simple, fuzzier than a moldy peach and most definitely rock but it still took me a few months to fully appreciate.  I soon came to realize that what lay before me was a go-to rock record.

That’s why I was chomping at the bit to pick up their latest album, Sea of Cowards.   It’s certainly more musically varied than their debut but the core elements are still there: thick distorted guitars and bass (with plenty of unrestrained feedback); the quirky organ & synthesizer melodies that make you wanna shake your ass; the simple but effective backbeat drumming raining with cymbal crashes.  Lyrically and musically, each of these songs follow a most weird spiral inward, repetitiously meandering with (seemingly) no purpose until they flip the switch and the bands breaks out into a heavy, head-nodding groove.  For me, the standout performance that claws its way to the top of this sloppy (in a good way) rock mess is the venom-spit vocal delivery from singer Alison Mosshart.  Her vocal delivery on this album seems like the cue to let the band know when to turn it up and let loose for a few bars.  Coupled with the occasional vocal duet from behind the drum kit, these chant-like mantras shake the listener with intensity.  Here are the tunes I’m diggin’ after the first few listens:

  • The opener, ‘Blue Blood Blues’, steps in with a drunken swagger and a slippery guitar/bass line that serves as the perfect linkage for listeners from the last record.  Some trippy, looped vocals at the track’s end give way to the funky bass line intro of ‘Hustle and Cuss’
  • ‘Jawbreaker’ is another tune that comes in with a dirty, hip-swinging rock and roll feel before switching gears into a rapid-fire, stop & start descending drum fill/synth arpeggio that reminds me of the post-breakdown (~ 4:57 mark) drum pummeling of ‘Dazed and Confused’.
  • The truly bizarre ‘Old Mary’ simply because of it’s foreboding, slurred organ drawl and killer final lyric (Carry this burden, now and till the moment of your last breath)

Just like the debut, I think that I will need a few months to digest this album as well.  If the last record brought to mind 70’s rock, it seems like the band has taken another half-step toward the 80s; the prominence of buzzy synth/organ lines is the most noticeable musical difference from their last offering.  At first glance, it may seem like those crazy kids have simply found more ways to keep the retro-without-coming-off-as-trying-to-hard vibe going but I think that this record serves as a solid platform for The Dead Weather to continue building their own schizophrenic sound.



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