Jack is back

Dead Weather cover
Initially, it didn’t look like there was much reason to be optimistic about the Dead Weather, Jack White’s collaboration with Allison Mosshart (the Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs). White’s projects have been declining in quality in recent years, and the Dead Weather’s early singles were more baffling than they were infectious. “Hang You from the Heavens” hardly lived up to the radio-friendly accessibility of “Fell in Love with a Girl,” “Seven Nation Army,” or even “Steady, as She Goes.” And with its rambling structure and numerous tempo shifts, “Treat Me Like Your Mother” was simply too eclectic to work as a single.

Within the context of Horehound, however, these songs hold up much better; what the album lacks in knockout singles it makes up for in relentless energy. The album hits like a full-on assault, its primal garage blues and ominous spaghetti western guitar riffs making it Jack’s best album since 2003′s career-defining Elephant. Unlike the Raconteurs overly-fussy Consolers of the Lonely, the Dead Weather returns the White Stripe to his minimalist roots with gritty lo-fi recordings that befit the raucous mood.

Of course, Jack doesn’t deserve full credit for the success of Horehound, especially since the album relegates him to the less visible roles of drummer and producer. It’s Allison Mosshart who’s placed front-and-centre, her howling vocals channeling the woman-scorned intensity of Karen O (circa Fever to Tell). Her brash screaming on “Bone House” evokes an era of rap metal era before it was tainted by Limp Bizkit; fittingly, Fertita provides a freak-out tremolo solo that’s crazier than anything Tom Morello has produced in years.

But despite the group’s apparent democracy, it’s the moments when Jack takes over that are the most memorable. The album’s best track is “Cut Like a Buffalo,” and it’s the only song for which White receives sole writing credit. Punctuated by blasts of distorted organ and disorienting, proggy breakdowns, Jack’s vocal performance is downright maniacal. While the lyrics are too obtuse to fully decipher, lines like “You cut a record on my throat then you / Break me wide open” are chilling.

Horehound is the first album recorded in Jack’s new Third Man Studio in Nashville and, based on the evidence here, the experience appears to have revitalized his career. After the hyper-compressed sheen of Blackbird Studio (where Icky Thump and Consolers of the Lonely were recorded), White has returned to the unrefined glory of his best work. With a slew of new projects in the pipeline, there’s now plenty of reason to be hopeful for whatever comes next.

Horehound is out now via Third Man.
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  1. By The Dead Weather’s creepy new video on October 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    [...] on my throat then you / Break me wide open.” “I Cut Like a Buffalo” is on the excellent album Horehound, out now via Third Man.  Posted in Videos Tagged The Dead Weather Post a [...]

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