Note: This review was originally penned and shared 1/06/2010 on this blog. I loved the combination of talents within “The Dead Weather” and thought it appropriate to share thoughts on their first album. I eventually want to listen to and review their second effort as well. Hopefully I can get to that one sooner than later. Until next entry, have a happy Sunday!
The Dead Weather is really a supergroup in composition, and quite a collaboration between artists, I have to say. With Allison Mosshart from The Kills on vocals and guitar, Jack White of The White Stripes on vocals and guitar, Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar, and John Lawrence from The Greenhorns on bass, it’s just as good of a collaboration as you’d think it would be – with a combination of blues, rock, and stoner rock all rolled into one. It’s the type of album you’d feel excited to hear live whether you’re in one of those small, smoky clubs where you hear the band play or in a large stadium rocking out. My ears were pleasantly surprised and impressed. And trust me, I’m a tough customer to please.
The creation behind The Dead Weather had me grinning from ear to ear when I read from Alan Cross’s account – The Kills were the opening act for The Racounteurs, of which Jack White is a part of. White had been ill and Mosshart was asked to sub in for him. He was impressed, and after a drunken night, they headed to Tennessee to record in studio. That’s quite a story, or at least the variation of it I was able to catch.
I do consider myself a fan of Allison Mosshart’s vocals – she has a grit that is literally not found in many considerations in modern music, and she brings it just as convincingly as her work with the Kills. Jack White provides a nice amount of chemistry with Mosshart vocally, and the cohesiveness of the accompaniment between White, Fertita and Lawrence through each track gives it an immediate punch and flavor that makes it radiate confidence, poise, and edge. The album alternates between its own distinct set of moods, some which maintain a punch that lasts throughout the song (“I Cut Like A Buffalo”, “Treat Me Like Your Mother”) while others choose a steady build to a point where it errupts in the cusp of emotion (“So Far from Your Weapon”, “Rocking Horse”).
I’m even more impressed by how well the syncopation plays out in many of the songs on this album between the musicians, it brings the right amount of tension and anticipation noted in the genre, without ever going terribly crazy (though there are some moments when I think Jack White makes me shake my head at his usual inflections, but it’s considerably tamer here).
I’ll have more to say on the album’s cohesiveness, content, and charisma (interesting use of alliteration, don’t you think? I swear it was unintentional) after the tracklisting and cut, but color this one of my favorite albums of the year. Hands down.
The Dead Weather – “Horehound”
Released: July 10, 2009
1. 60 Feet Tall (5:33)
2. Hang You From The Heavens (3:38)
3. I Cut Like a Buffalo (3:28)
4. So Far From Your Weapon (3:40)
5. Treat Me Like Your Mother (4:10)
6. Rocking Horse (2:59)
7. New Pony (3:58)
8. Bone House (3:27)
9. 3 Birds (3:45)
10. No Hassle Night (2:56)
11. Will There Be Enough Water? (6:20)
To spare a few words on “Horehound”, let me say a few things – I approached listening to this album with some measure of skepticism. Supergroups often combine very talented individuals when in their respective bands, but don’t always have the same chemistry when taken out of that and placed into another perspective. It was my pleasant surprise that the cohesiveness between the members of this group happened to turn out to have great collaborative focus, vocals and accompaniment alike.
“60 Feet Tall” does have a larger than life feel and opens the album with a viscous, accumulating energy to start. Brimming, but not erupting. I actually really like how the dynamic goes from that whispering stature and then builds straight into the instrumentation. The song mechanics work with respect to the melody as well, and from my interpretation of the song, I think this is mainly about a relationship that’s hard to pull away from. In the same vein, the speaker within says it’s troublesome but has some measure of “[taking] the trouble”, because of being able to stand with it.
“Hang You Up From the Heavens” pulls no punches in its dynamic, its guitar and drum work kicking the energy up from start to finish. You can hear the kind of frustration at the relationship in this song, not simply in the vocal projection, but in the persona.
“So Far from Your Weapon” is one of my favorite songs from the album for Allison Mosshart’s vocal smoothness in the verses, which make the chorus even sweeter when it’s accompanied by the backing vocals and instrumentation.
“Treat Me Like Your Mother” is unrelenting in its demand for honesty (and respect I might add – but then again you can kind of take it as a demand for cutting through the BS). I think the dynamic between Jack White’s and Allison Mosshart’s parts make it sound like they’re trading punches and having this element of “call and response” that rides along with the melody. The melodic inflections in this are very well done with the thematic.
“Rocking Horse” really does feel like a rocking horse being pushed back and forth with respect to its melodic arrangement, then evening out before it seems like it’s pushed again. I have to applaud the drum work in this song, as it heightens this measure/technique. As far as the material goes, the album remains strong, and this song is rebellious yet noting a recurring futility in each of the measures it examines.
I do find it interesting they jump from “Rocking Horse” to “New Pony”. I don’t know if it was entirely intentional, but these two songs seem to play from each other aside from their titles. The former song has the rebellious and rebuking quality, while the latter seems to be accepting of a dark entanglement. (If not evidenced by the pony name being “Lucifer”. I thought it was pretty cool that while the songs are different in tone, they mesh and flow well with the album structure, connecting if even in a small way.
The intro lines of “Bone House” stood out to me the first time I heard it, and I would applaud it’s minimalistic lyric structure with the pulsing melody. “3 Birds” is simply an instrumental that has interspersing elements of ambiance and experimental phrasing.
The last two songs of the album “No Hassle Night” and “Will There Ever Be Enough Water”, are the shortest and longest songs on the album respectively. “No Hassle Night” has a completely crazy opening, literally the instruments seem to go all over the place before going into a seductive intro to Mosshart’s low, seemingly speaking vocals. I do agree with what someone I saw mentioning a Velvet Underground texture – I would even note that the song seems very strongly influenced in that vein. “Will There Ever Be Enough Water” closes out the album with straight up blues. There’s no denying that. They strip out the dynamics and the group strips it down to a lovely track with a slow burn. It’s the kind of music I love, and honestly I think Mosshart and White sound great when they transition in this vein – it makes the performance hit home and retain a classic quality. I thought it was a great way to close the album.
Overall, I think “Horehound” was a wonderful album taken in collective context. The one piece of criticism I would note is that it’s the type of album that has great focus and investment in its inspired styles, but you probably can’t listen to these songs in a way that is easy to digest and go straight through the album without noticing that the styles can fold into themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s stoner rock, blues, and ambiance mixed in a sexy way, and I think the way all four musicians come together is very well noted. They all stick to their roots and contribute phrases that mesh into a cohesive effort. However, some of the melodic phrases do tend to blend, so much that it can deter someone who expects the album to work itself a bit past those boundaries.
Overall score: 8.5/10