21 July 2009

Music Review - The Dead Weather

In the interest of full disclosure, I unabashedly consider myself a Jack White fanatic -- in my eyes this guy is the rock artist ideal: inscrutable, devilish, elusive, uncompromising, impassioned, dark. The White Stripes singlehandedly reawakened my interest in contemporary music. Just you wait, the forces of posterity will elevate White Blood Cells and Elephant into the pantheon of all-time classic records. Jack White, as guitarist, songwriter, producer, and over-all presence has proved he can hang with the big boys.

He looms so large, that it seems whenever he starts a new band, the music press defaults to the term supergroup, even though I've never heard of vocalist Allison Mosshart or guitarist Dean Fertita. And bassist Jack Lawrence rings a bell only because he's part of Jack White's first supergroup, The Raconteurs. Supergroup used to mean a group of previously established musicians each of whom is widely acknowledged as being one of the top at their respective instruments who get together to blow our minds, like Cream or The Traveling Wilburys. The age of exaggeration demands bloated accolades -- but let's face it, perhaps Jack deserves the plaudits.

Horehound is loud as hell, rawer than a rare steak, and dirty enough to make you have a go at your ears with sanitary wipe covered Q-tips afterwards. It's ripped with fuzzily screeching guitars and evil over-exposed synthesizers. With titles like "I Cut Like a Buffalo," "So Far From Your Weapon," "Treat Me Like Your Mother," "Bone House" the tracks ooze an ominous naughty goo, and although aren't outrightly rude per se, surely seem non grata in wholesome company.

Horehound's (not exactly chaste either) best (and loudest) track is "Treat Me Like Your Mother," an all-out assault on the senses replete with amusing wordplay. My other favourite track is the broody instrumental, "3 Birds" which sounds like it could easily have been lifted from the soundtrack to David Lynch's weirdfest Lost Highway. Check out the wicked video directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) no less. Turn the volume up:

It seems like Jack White's penchant for side projects lies in his illimitable creative potency, and in his desire to unbound himself from the aesthetic tethers of the White Stripes. When The Raconteurs first came out, you could barely recognize him unadorned in his customary red, white, and black leitmotif. Broken Boy Soldier disappointed me a little in its poppiness. I liked it, but it felt compromised, disingenuous to the hard man I had come to love. And it's like ol' Mr. Jack White heard me, because this is one bad-ass record -- completely authentic. Jack tries to recede into the background by listing himself as drummer, and Mosshart as vocalist, but every track has his brilliant fingers all over it, and either Mosshart's delivery sounds EXACTLY like Jack's, or it's all him with her backing him up.

Horehound may not exactly be a classic, but it is great, and gets better with every spin.

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