By this point in time it should be a firmly established and difficult to refute fact that Jack White is a super talented and interesting musician and songwriter. Virtually everything the guy touches achieves success either critically or commercially, and most often a combination of the two, and also maintains an uncompromising level of integrity and invention. Resultantly, it should be of little surprise that 2010’s Sea of Cowards released by Dead Weather, one of White’s many experimentally tinged music permutations, serves solidly as an intense, in-your-face barrage of blues rock, noise and the boisterous wail that has become the signature sound common in all White’s outfits.
The most immediately apparent truth about this album however is that it is not singularly a Jack White driven force. Much like The Raconteurs and, to an extent, unlike The White Stripes’ efforts, Sea of Cowards is a multi-pronged attack on the senses that offers the raucous approach of front woman Alison Mosshart, whose sincerely balls-to-the-wall angle shines particularly bright on the disjointed hip shaker, “Hustle and Cuss.” High on display as well is the synthesizer sound that White premiered on the White Stripes’ Icky Thump back in 2007. This sort of new age sludge and sleaze element as well as the often fragmented, perhaps at times inorganic structure, distinguishes the album’s work from the classic rock and blooze repertoire that the band collectively is influenced by. Make no mistake, this is folk rock for the new decade.
Thematically the album’s lyrics reflect the values and disvalues that are so heralded from a traditional blues perspective. However infused in to the cool, cockiness so near and dear to all diehard blues followers is a sense of real paranoia that comes seemingly as a product of living in such tenuous times as we do. In the album opener and lead single, “Blue Blood Blues,” White juxtaposes such functionally disparate couplets as “Yeah all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service/ Sing, sing, sing” and “If I left you woman, you know, I wouldn’t leave a trace/ I wouldn’t leave a trace, I wouldn’t leave a trace.” And for that, the album’s overall mood borders on the apocalyptic. However blissful at times it feels, there is this penetrating sense of impending catastrophe for which the best defense is to keep a level head and don a most unholy swagger. A true piece of art for the times. There is a permeating sense of urgency to move forth against an oncoming resistance proffered by an unidentified force. And for their cool navigation of this rocky terrain, members of Dead Weather deserve a robust kudos.
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