The Dead Weather: Horehound

By: Brian Gearing

The last word from Jack White was that the next album from the White Stripes was still in the works, and that was before The Dead Weather came along. For those who hold Meg's place on the drum stool as sacrosanct, Jack's newest project is either pure heresy or the next best thing. Rather than filling Sister White's place with another luminary to round out his new supergroup, Jack picks up the sticks himself and pounds the skins with a ferocity and proficiency that might send little sis to her room to soak her pillow. Horehound (released July 14 on WEA/Reprise) rocks more raw power than anything he's done since Elephant and his sexy swagger is back after his turn with The Raconteurs' pop-geek boys club.

Maybe it's something to do with having a woman around. Along with Queens of the Stone Age's Dean Fertita and The Raconteurs' Jack Lawrence, The Kills' Alison Mosshart joins White, and he's gentlemanly enough to share the mic, though their voices are so similar one wonders about the health of his ego. Psychobabble aside, the two compliment each other so well it's hard to imagine why they would have chosen "Hang You from the Heavens" as the first single. It's a decent enough introduction, but rather than pound you into submission like the rest of the record, it jerks you around like a rag doll, and though Mosshart's voice stands on its own, it stands taller on White's shoulders.

The two come together on "I Cut Like a Buffalo," which sways around like a dominatrix stripper on 4-pound, 5-inch platforms, and the hip hop stomp of "Treat Me Like Your Mother" knocks the garage door off its chain. Though The Dead Weather's two main vocalists draw the spotlight at center stage, the other half provides the voltage. Guitarist and keyboardist Fertita hangs around the basement with bassist Lawrence and White's right foot and only lets the guitars out to screech through a few wailing garage solos.

Aside from "Rocking Horse" and "Bone House," which fill in the space between, most of the album alternates between the aforementioned heavy blues tracks (including a genius reworking of the obscure Dylan song "New Pony") and the slow, haunting, deep cut Zeppelinism of opener "60 Feet Tall" and the instrumental "3 Birds." Not every track is a home run, but Horehound notches another one in the win column for Jack White. And if The Dead Weather can pick the second single better than the first, their debut is likely to win over a few classic rock listeners who shied from The Raconteurs' pop edge or the White Stripes' garage slop. That Jack White can continue to produce superior work in such a variety of settings is a testament to his talent and evidence that whatever direction he may choose it will always be forward. Sorry, Meg.

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[Published on: 7/20/09]

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