White strikes a third time
Jack White — the man just doesn’t take a break. He wasn’t content with making blues popular again by ascending through the Detroit music scene with his pseudo-sister Meg or creating two solid American rock albums with Brendan Benson via The Raconteurs, so he decided to create a third band named The Dead Weather. Returning to his blues roots, The Dead Weather enters a subgenre of the blues with their album Horehound that The White Stripes simply aren’t able to create with two people.
Alison Mosshart, of The Kills fame, is the primary vocalist while White is supporting vocalist and mans the drum kit. Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age is the lead guitarist, and rounding off the quartet is Jack Lawrence from The Raconteurs on bass.
Horehound mixes the complex arrangements of The White Stripes’ Icky Thump with the darker blues of the Dr. John variety. This thumping, swampy atmosphere pervades the entire album, beginning with the very first percussive click on “60 Feet Tall” and ending with the
slow fade at the end of “Will There Be Enough Water?” While there is some variety within the tracks, the songs retain this mash of swamp blues. White manages to add a cover of his most influential artist, Bob Dylan, even though it is a relatively obscure track titled “New Pony.”
The most interesting aspect of The Dead Weather is their dedication to the various percussive bits that make up each song. Most notably found on the instrumental “3 Birds,” flourishes of White’s drums and Fertita’s guitar constantly find new ways of rearticulating similar ideas without sounding stale. Centered on Lawrence’s simple bass line, “3 Birds” constantly sees the addition of different layers and flourishes until it re-simplifies into an original idea and then starts repeating the process all over again.
While White is attempting to step far away from the limelight with The Dead Weather, which he attempted but didn’t successfully do in The Raconteurs, his command over the music is widely apparent. White is the primary vocalist in “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” which retains much of the quirky songwriting of the White Stripe albums Icky Thump and Get Behind Me Satan.
“Bone House” continues White’s trope of the home and homebuilding as Mosshart lets out bloodcurdling screams of “I build a house/For your bones.”
White’s drumming isn’t shabby either. Originally a drummer in his first band, in Horehound White reveals his immense ability to provide flourishes and fills when needed and just the right percussive touch that magnifies the tracks. The only downfall to Horehound is Mosshart. Don’t get me wrong, Mosshart’s voice fits so well within the tracks that she seems to disappear at times within tracks. Her voice is such a natural fit that the lyrics never seem to dominate the music at any level, and it blends in so well, much like Dan Auerbach from The
Black Keys — perfect for scrutinizing textures and sonic aspects, but lacking in forcefulness of singing lyrics. She is a fantastic singer, but she does not command any attention to her voice, except in “Bone House” and to some extent in “60 Feet Tall.”
It seems that Horehound was partly created to introduce Mosshart to the public, and while it will certainly do so, Horehound will fail to give her the spotlight and recognition she deserves for her performances.
While a sonically interesting album under scrutiny, Horehound is not an album for the typical White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” listener. The Dead Weather has created an album that introduces a more obscure subgenre of the blues to the mainstream. The band has not made an album that breaks new ground, much like The White Stripes never really broke any new ground in the blues, except Get Behind Me Satan. *Horehound*is simply a refreshing take on blues that unfortunately will not penetrate the mainstream for wide adoption.
The album’s diverse and constantly flourishing sonicbombardment will reward those who sit down and scrutinize the album with a good set of headphones or speakers.