From the opening sounds of “60 Ft Tall” from Horehound, it’s apparent this isn’t your everyday super group. The Dead Weather creates cerebral, bluesy cock-fueled rock, using not just the tip but the whole entire head of their explosive arsenal. The difference is there’s a luscious lady assassin who is the sensual leader of this operation, and her name is Alison Mosshart. Yeah, I know the brainchild of this group is Jack White III, he’s the producer and plays drums, but The Weather would be limp and lifeless without the front-woman of The Kills. She slays, sulks and seduces you through this electrifying debut album. But she’s no damsel; in fact Allison seems to have a desire for danger as you can hear throughout the very lustful and fiery “60 Ft Tall.”
But this just isn’t Alison’s show—she’s backed up by three prominent counterparts. The first is guitarist Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age. His riffs are the backbone to this 21st Century sound (think Hendrix-meets-Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zimmer, with a slice of Rage’s Tom Morello) creating earth shattering riffs that are simply intensified greatness. Yes, the new single “Treat Me Like Your Mother” even has that Rage Against the Machine-meets-Southern Delta sound. Even Jack’s vocals echo the living spirit of aggro activist Zach De La Rocha on “Treat Me Like Your Mother.”
Speaking of Jack, our favorite axe-man has taken the sticks and is now sitting behind the drum kit. You may notice that the backbeats are turned up in the mix. This reminds me of a story of when Mick Jagger went to go visit Keith Richards during their much-publicized split during the ’80s. Richards played Jagger tracks from his then new album Talk is Cheap. Jagger’s one comment was that the drums were turned up a little high. Richards’ response was that the drummer Steve Jordan was the one that produced the sessions. Jagger’s response was, “There you go,” and just laughed. As I mentioned before, White is the producer of Horehound so you will notice his drum fills louder than on most of his recordings. I love his Ringo-like opening count-out in the “Yer Blues”-inspired cover of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony,” one of the most original covers of a Dylan song re-imagined by a band I have ever heard. This rendition is simply a modern day classic.
At first, White’s cranked up drums are noticeable but as you go further down the rabbit hole that is Horehound the other elements of the band—especially bassist’s Jack Lawrence killer fills, Fertita’s robust riffs and Allison’s sultry vocals—all take you over. You are useless to resist the power of The Dead Weather.
I’ve never really been a fan of instrumentals but “3 Birds” is an all assault of riffs, fills and boisterous bass licks, with a sinister vibe that would make Portishead proud. Another highlight is the raga, hip-hop and organ-infused brilliance of “I Cut like a Buffalo.” Jack’s lyrics are hilariously wicked when he sings, “You know I look like a woman but I cut like a buffalo.” But my favorite song is Alison’s “So Far From Your Weapon.” When she sings, “There’s a bullet in my pocket burning a hole…” Alison sounds like an assassin savoring the moment right before she kills for the thrill.
I love it when Alison and Jack sing together—their voices merge perfectly throughout. On “No Hassle Night” hey sound like a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde on the run when they sing, “I’m looking for a place to go/ where the sun goes down…where I can lay low,” leaving behind a trail of scars and broken hearts inside these saga-like songs. The one weak link on Horehound seems to be the faux electronic inspired backing beats of “Bone House.” I have to admit this song seems out of place on this hot-blooded debut album. To me The Dead Weather’s Horehound sounds like a soundtrack to an unmade, futuristic Western motion picture where these outlaws kill for the thrill, and live to sing about it.
Jack White’s newest vehicle, featuring Alison Mosshart as his lyrical executioner, is impossible to resist. Dean Fertita is the unheralded all-star of this album. His riffs are the ones that bring White’s 21st Century artistic carnage to life. White, Mosshart, Fertita and Lawrence are an ideal match that you must discover. Get ready to be hooked on Horehound. Death, blues and rock never sounded this good, buried in the mix together.
Video: “Treat Me Like Your Mother”