Album Review: The Dead Weather - 'Sea Of Cowards' (Third Man/Warner)
Look, they don’t care if you’re fed up of Jack White side-projects – and they’re damn sexy when they’re angry
Well, guess what? Resentment only breeds more resentment. [a]The Dead Weather[/a] are back once again, and [b]‘Sea Of Cowards’[/b], from its snarling title downwards, is a record out for revenge. And, as if motivated purely by spite, it’s really good.
Where the adequate [b]‘Horehound’[/b] sounded reverential, this album is snake-hipped and spooky. White works best when conjuring fantasy worlds. But where the Stripes’ best work idealised an apple-pie America, all serenading mothers-in-law and skipping home with a song in your heart, [a]The Dead Weather[/a], having found their voice, create a gothic world of malevolent, black leather-clad sexuality. They take Suzy Lee from those Stripes songs, tie her up inside the Hotel Yorba and douse the place with diesel. [b]‘Sea Of Cowards’[/b] sounds like a voodoo ghost train into an Emily The Strange comic populated by zombie cowboys. It’s stylised like a Manga version of the blues. And it’s so low-slung that it disembowels itself with its own pelvis.
As if grabbing the reins, White takes the lead on the squalling [b]‘Blue Blood Blues’[/b], winding the band up with a tension that proceeds to spin out throughout the rest of the 11 tracks. Matters transmute into the swaggering [b]‘Hustle And Cuss’[/b], in which guitar and Hammond compete to bring each other to orgasm several times. The closest it gets to tender is a wistful ode to dysfunction called [b]‘The Difference Between Us’[/b]. More typical is the staccato growl on [b]‘Gasoline’[/b], which sounds like a rock show in a haunted house, black and sticky, [b]Alison Mosshart[/b] sidling up to her lover crooning, [i]“You’re so close to me I can smell the gasoline”[/i]. [b]‘Die By The Drop’[/b] begins as a lurching slab of psyche before working itself into a panic, threatening, [i]“I’m gonna take you for worse or better”[/i].
For all that [b]‘Sea Of Cowards’[/b] pins you down and shrieks “heeeeeeeere’s Jacky!” it’s also the record that sounds less like a White dictatorship than any he’s ever made. ‘This is my band, deal with it’ is the message. The desert drawl [b]Dean Fertita[/b] picked up in [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] gets plenty to do here, as does [b]Jack Lawrence[/b]’s mastery of the blues. But of course, the real star here is Mosshart. She’s electrifying, sexy like a velociraptor, snarling and cooing and pouting like a rock villainess as created by peak-period Tim Burton. When she yelps [i]“I’m mad!”[/i] on the psychedelic [b]‘I’m Mad’[/b] she really does sound like she’s about to cut you up (Jack would presumably be there filming it on a camera phone… if he liked technology).
[b]‘Sea Of Cowards’[/b], then, is the record [a]The Dead Weather[/a] should have come out with first, casting them firmly as a real band, albeit one that sound like they’d roofie their fan club soon as look at them. It’s actually supremely brave and exhilarating. Because, by the time [b]‘Old Mary’[/b] echoes out with a promise that the poor woman of the title must [i]“carry this burden ’til the moment of your last breath”[/i] it’s actually difficult to imagine White in as cosy a set-up as the Stripes ever again. So careful what you wish for, is the lesson. If this is really where [b]Jack White[/b]’s head is right now we should maybe be scared. But it’s a good scared.
[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]
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