Jack White has effectively become the American equivalent of Damon Albarn.
Not in a specific musical sense, but in the way he keeps turning his back on success, only to find success elsewhere, whether it's with the prog-rock of the Raconteurs, the minstrel blues of Cold Mountain or the country music of Loretta Lynn. Few, if any, of White's American peers display anything like his restless creativity, though it must be admitted that until he develops a knack for melodies as engaging and reliable as Albarn's, his extra-curricular activities are always liable to disappoint, compared to the White Stripes.
The Dead Weather is Jack's latest hobby, a sort of stoner garage-rock supergroup in which he features alongside the singer Alison Mosshart from the Kills, the bassist Jack Lawrence from the Raconteurs and the guitarist/ keyboardist Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age. The hook is that, rather than assuming his usual dominant, upfront position, White restricts himself mostly to playing drums, a task to which he brings every ounce of his usual passion and an unexpected degree of skill. Whether this is because Jack's production, at Jack's own Third Man Studio in Nashville, tends to foreground Jack's drumming, is debatable. But his drumming does possess a narrative quality all his own, striding along with the sort of panache that Keith Moon brought to the Who.
The dominant melodic contribution comes from Fertita, whether he's establishing the guitar hook of "60 Feet Tall" with the imposing restraint of the Doors' Robbie Krieger, the latent threat of a burst of lead guitar always lurking just beneath the surface; bullying "Hang You from the Heavens" along with a brutal riff; or swathing the album in surging swirls of noise from his 1960s hybrid guitar-organ. Away from the mannered retro-Goth-punk affectations of the Kills, meanwhile, Mosshart proves a compelling frontperson, spitting out lyrics with a rancid delivery that's equal parts P J Harvey and Peaches.
Unfortunately, there's something equally rancid about her lyrics, which feature the kind of dark-side cliches that make it impossible to take the Kills too seriously, such as "I must tap your evil well, 'cos boy, do you come roaring like a bat out of hell." There's an undertow of antipathy in her performance that drags even Dylan's whimsical "New Pony" into a darker, nastier place. White contributes a half-decent rap to "I Cut Like a Buffalo", but his finest moment comes in "Will There Be Enough Water?", when he swaps drums for some nimble resophonic guitar picking that sets the track apart from the rest of Horehound, and confirms where his real strength lies.
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