The Dead Weather
out July 14th
The Dead Weather is a blues-rock band comprised of Jack White (The White Stripes), Dean Fertila (Queens of the Stone Age), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs). If you haven’t heard ‘em yet, don’t feel bad. They fired things up on March 11, 2009 and Horehound, their debut album, was released in the middle of last month. They’re being billed as a supergroup, and after hearing the record, I’m good with that.
My first impression of this album was that it felt like each song was recorded in a garage with foam padding stapled to the walls. I don’t mean that in a bad way… I’m actually saying it as a major compliment. Do you remember early grunge? That stuff felt like it’d never been streamed through a computer before it hit your ears. In contrast, most of today’s music has been processed and mastered within an inch of its life. That processing, mixing, and mastering takes work (and is an art in and of itself), but there are things that make The Dead Weather’s sound authentic, and their gritty garage sound is one of them. You put this record on, close your eyes, and you feel like you’re sitting dingy recording space hearing musicians that love to rock. The rawness of Horehound is a welcome return to what has made rock & roll art.
The grittiness of the album comes through a marriage of blues and rock that runs through Horehound almost interchangeably. “I Cut Like a Buffalo” blows the lid off the album with its opening riffs, organs, bass lines, throat clucks, and harmonized shouting. These Techniques aren’t typical devices that people go for, but for some reason it just works here. This song stuck in my head for hours afterward and it was certainly one of my favorites.
Part of the intrigue of the album is Jack White as the master of beats. Having him drive sound from a kit is a gutty and pretty intriguing move. His presence is stamped all over this album, but differently then it is in the White Stripes or Raconteurs. In “60 Feet Tall” the rolling rim checks put you on immediate notice that you’re going to rock. By the time the melody actually comes in, I'd bought into the song completely. The drums are creative and strategically used by White, and he adds depth in sound and substance to the entire album.
“Will There Be Enough Water” has a molasses filled, slinky, bluesy kind’ve feel. It slugs along making you feel dirty and dangerous simultaneously. Despite being a tad long, it’s a great outro for an album that spent ten songs slugging you in the gut with rock hooks & beats.
These aren't all songs I’m listening to on a daily basis, but that’s good. To me, Horehound feels more like an event than a day-to-day experience. I like music that pushes its genre, and what you get from this band is smart rock. This isn't just a bunch of power chords strung together to chorus after chorus of feel good teen lyrics. It’s not catchy bubble-gum rock; it’s a brand of rock that will peel paint off walls.
One of the more subtle, but cool aspects of Horehound are the western themes. Lyrics like “far from your weapon,” “whiskey,” and “cut like a buffalo,” reinforce the rugged, Clint Eastwood-esce grit. The western-ness runs a steel ribbon of authenticity through the project. It feels like so many of today’s musicians are musicians for hire… seemingly in it more for the dollar and less for the music. I’m not saying that The Dead Weather doesn’t like the cash that comes with the music, but there’s something about this record that feels real. It doesn’t feel formulaic and it doesn’t feel like its been done before.
This album isn't for everyone. The first half of the record is a bit stronger than the second, and I’m sure there will be people that hate it. Regardless, the record should give anyone that gives it a legit listen a new-found respect for each member of the band. You can dislike renaissance art, and still appreciate Michelangelo… and even if you dislike Horehound it’s pretty clear that something fresh and powerful is coming from a legitimate supergroup.