The Dead Weather
“Horehound” July 2009
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on August 28, 2009 | PRINT

People say that rock ‘n’ roll is dead. They’re probably right. But Jack White isn’t listening. His is the skeletal hand reaching up from the genre’s 30-year-old grave.

White’s latest project, The Dead Weather, features neither his voice nor his equally distinctive guitar voice, yet White’s signature is still unmistakably present. But to call The Dead Weather another of White’s ‘projects’ is unfair. The group, as with White’s other venture The Raconteurs, is a four-way collaboration that bears the misfortunes of carrying Jack White III’s weighty name.

Even then, The Dead Weather’s debut, “Horehound,” cannot escape the classic White sound. The chief conspirator’s stamp is so prevalent that each instrument sounds as if it’s played by White himself, down to singer Alison Mosshart’s (of The Kills) Joplin-esque howl, which says more about the pitch of White’s voice than the lady’s (although White does provide background vocals that abandon his typical high-pitched whine in favor of grit and blues).

Often, with Jack Lawrence’s full bass sound and a more streamlined guitar sound courtesy of Queens of the Stone Age contributor Dean Fertita, The Dead Weather sounds like a “what if…?” version of The White Stripes. What if the Stripes had full-time bass? What if the Stripes had a truly competent drummer? What if Jack White’s often bizarre guitar playing was reeled in to serve a group?

Well, this is it. Throw in some organ in the back-end, and “Horehound” realizes a White Stripes dream come true. While both the Stripes and The Dead Weather employ a neo-blues sonic esthetic, the latter’s roots are in a Detroit garage-rock scene whereas the former are based in White’s adopted hometown of Nashville, Tenn., a region of which The Dead Weather’s sound is very indicative. The quartet collectively oozes swamp water and whiskey out of its Marshall stacks, a sound that’s as much attitude and swagger as anything else.

Unlike the radio-friendly jams of White’s previous two groups, no pop hits will be found on “Horehound.” The record is smoky, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with a taste of each member’s own flavor from the alternative scene. Each song is a tightly wound explosion of Southern energy, Mosshart wailing like a wild banshee, White’s forceful drumming urging the group faster, harder, stronger. Amid the tug-of-war between vocalist and percussionist, Fertita and Lawrence attempt to hold the storm together. This tug and hold, push and pull duality makes “Horehound” a wild ride from beginning to end, one of those records upon whose completion of raucous energy the listener is left itcwhing for more.

Problem is, there ain’t no more; there ain’t no rock out there pure and sassy as The Dead Weather’s, so we’ll just have to play “Horehound” again and again until either Jack White III or another unknown savior strike again.

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