Jack White is modern music’s equivalent of a plate spinner. Right when he seems to have one band running sure and steady he starts up another one. As The Raconteurs 2008 tour wound down, fans were anticipating something new from The White Stripes whose 2007 tour in support for Icky Thump ended prematurely. Catching people off guard in March 2009, it was announced White was the member of yet another band, The Dead Weather. However, he would not be the guitarist, like in his other bands, but the drummer.
The Dead Weather finds White surrounded by familiar company. Jack Lawrence is on bass as he is in The Raconteurs. Dean Fertita, who was a touring musician with The Raconteurs, plays guitar and keyboards. The lead singer is Alison Mosshart of the Kills, who opened for the boys last summer. They all contribute as songwriters on Horehound, creating an album of songs fueled by lust and rage and the frustration those emotions bring.
“60 Feet Tall” finds the narrator who can’t stop her infatuations for a man who is “so cruel and shameless.” The band matches her moods; a simple groove simmers underneath her, then finally they break loose and rip it up a couple of times. “Hang You From The Heavens” has killer distorted riffs on guitar and organ throughout. The narrator doesn’t like the fella who allows her to push him around. Her loathing turns to a desire “to grab you by the hair,” which is well exemplified by the music, particularly when White bashes the drums
White wrote and sings on “I Cut Like A Buffalo.” The organ repeats a sequence that borders on relentless as the lyrics tell tale of another dysfunctional relationship. The narrator knows he treats his woman “like a joke” and “doesn’t know how to take it” when it goes well, which may explain why she is at his throat.
“So Far From Your Weapon” is a triumphant rocking tune and the lyrics evoke a Western, possibly an outlaw couple, and both are not coming out of the situation they are in. The distorted organ returns on the duet “Treat Me Like Your Mother” where another couple is at cross-purposes as they try to figure it out. She wants to be treated with respect. He feels he is being manipulated.
On the cover of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony,” the gender roles aren’t changed, so Mosshart sings about dealing with a difficult woman and wanting to “climb up one more time on you,” which will surely drive the boys wild. The fuzzed-out guitar that plays throughout sounds very good, and contrasts well when joined by one with a clear tone that rings out on the bridge.
“3 Birds” is a gothic instrumental. It’s a pleasant contrast to the rest of the album’s music and it’s too bad there isn’t more of it. The mood continues on “No Hassle Night” with its intense synthesizer and Mosshart’s effected vocal, evoking Siouxsie Sioux. She again sings a song where the narrator’s partner is a trouble-causing woman, a drifter, a burglar.
White moves to acoustic guitar on “Will There Be Enough Water,” a slow, simple blues duet. It’s the one song most reminiscent of his previous work and could have appeared on an album by his other bands.
The album’s one misstep is “Bone House.” The organ lines are a little too relentless and Mosshart’s vocals get too screechy. It’s hard to believe the narrator’s claim she “always get the things I want.”
White seems similar to jazz musicians, constantly on the move making music, and intrigued by the potential possibilities different combinations allow. I discover new and interesting bits with each listen. Who knows how long The Dead Weather will last before he is off to spin a new plate, but the quartet should be happy with their chemistry on Horehound because the experiment is a success.