To kick-start what is hopefully a content heavy summer, I’m starting with my favourite current band hands down, Jack White supergroup, The Dead Weather. My go to song is “Treat Me Like Your Mother” from their debut.
Despite their extensive pedigree, has still maintained a rather low-key success, mostly pulling fans from their collective bands. So let’s break it down. Guitar hero, Jack White, decided to take drums here, as well as some vocals and play a more managing role in the band after playing guitar in the White Stripes and Raconteurs. Alison Mosshart takes lead vocals and absolutely kills it (unintended puns are always better) both singing and running the stage, giving an amazingly raw performance. She also plays in the Kills, and was in a band called Discount. Dean Fertita plays keys and guitar, much like his role in Queens Of The Stone Age but in lead, he also played in The Waxwings. Lastly is the amazing bass work from Jack Lawrence of Raconteur and Greenhornes fame, every line he plays is an amazing groove that fits each song perfectly without overpowering everything else. The band released two albums in the span of a year, today I’m going to start with their sophomore release, Sea Of Cowards.
The album opens on the gritty “Blue Blood Blues” which sets the tone for album perfectly, faster and more technically on point than their debut. This song also contains one of my favourite lyrics of all time with “Check your lips at the door woman, and shake your hips like battleships.” It flows seamlessly into “Hustle & Cuss” a riff driven song with some amazing howling from Mosshart, and its bridge breaks down into an amazing groove with band members yelling over it.
“The Difference Between Us” is more keyboard driven than the most of the album but fits perfectly, without losing any of the heavy sound. It sounds best when followed immediately by “I’m Mad,” a song that may seem a little repetitive if you aren’t into the groove but when it breaks down halfway through there is a sense of musical euphoria not matched anywhere else here.
“Die By The Drop” is one of the more epic tracks on the album, building every verse towards the explosion that is each chorus, even the vocals turn from a talking call and response to shouting harmony. The album goes back to its riff-driven rock on “I Can’t Hear You” where Mosshart’s vocals turn to echo-y lofi and the riffs become sultry, making a groove it’s hard not to dance to.
“Gasoline” is a strange keyboard callback to “I Cut Like A Buffalo” from their debut, despite the weirder sound it really pulls through on an amazing guitar solo. “No Horse” pulls out what is probably the coolest bass groove on the album, driving the whole song while changing the fills constantly. Mosshart’s vocals also hit a peak here with some amazing shrieks that feel necessary rather than cacophonous, and would probably be throat damaging for most.
“Looking For The Invisible Man” is another groove driven song where the drums never seem to stop, and the keyboard riffs seem to flow seamlessly into the guitar licks, showing Fertita’s clever tone shaping. Some of the vocal play by White and Mosshart is just so weird on this track it’s hard to ignore. The technicality comes to its peak on “Jawbreaker” a song that goes by fast with riffs that are so long it’s incredible to hear. Once again Fertita’s lines drifting between guitar and keys are hard to distinguish and even more amazing considering he can play licks that fast on keys. The weirdness comes to its peak on “Old Mary” but once it hits its groove it’s a great listen.
The band also have a great live concert from Jack White’s Third Man Records where you can see Mosshart’s powerful stage presence and Fertita’s finesse at switching instruments on the fly.
Next up I’ll talk about The Dead Weather’s slower debut Horehound.