The Dead Weather – Horehound review
Take a whisk of rock, a syrup spoon of country and a sprinkle of The Kills and The Raconteurs and what do you get? The Dead Weather. But can they live up to their supergroup status?
From Broken Social Scene to Heaven and Hell to Audioslave, we’re getting supergroup bands comprised solely of well-known musicians. The word ‘supergroup’ has larger than life connotations, so it’s time to see if The Dead Weather can live up to the promise.
The Dead Weather is the latest band to test their hand at supergroup success with their debut album, Horehound. Formed in Nashville, Tennessee and comprised of Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Jack Lawrence and Dean Fertita, The Dead Weather is bringing together musicians from some of the most talented bands in music today. Mixing members of The Kills, The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes and Queens of the Stone Age respectively, The Dead Weather’s lineup alone makes it the quintessential supergroup of our time.
As the debut album of a band that’s generated a substantial buzz since forming earlier this year, Horehound could have easily failed to live up to the hype created by both fans and critics alike. Fortunately, The Dead Weather manages to soar above and beyond anybody’s expectations.
Instead of starting the album off with a bang, The Dead Weather opts for a more subtle, bluesy buildup with ’60 Feet Tall’. The track introduces us to itself with a simple but intriguing little tune that builds both suspense and anxiety as to where The Dead Weather plan on taking us for the individual track and the album as a whole. After sufficiently teasing the listener, the song moves into a brief pinch of feedback before it settles into a funky minimalist sound – that gets shattered towards the end of the track when The Dead Weather finally builds up to the big bang. Crashing drums mingle with soulful guitar work that envelops your ears and will have you begging the band for more. This is an excellent track to lead into their debut album as it proves that this group has a killer set of skills but makes sure that the audience knows they’re only getting started.
Punchier than ’60 Feet Tall’, the lyrics to ‘Hang You Up From The Heavens’ deal with the uncertainty surrounding a decision to leave someone who isn’t the best choice for them. The song is fuelled by anger rather than cliched sorrow and lament – there’s no Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy approach to weigh the album down. This is a funky, hard-rocking and oddly empowering track that might even help some fans to make a few decisions of their own.
‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’ adds organ to the band’s already eclectic funk, country and rock influences to give the track an off-kilter carnival feel. The use of instruments like organs, violins, accordions and even banjos in rock music could scream ‘gimmick’ but the song manages to feel cool, modern and effortlessly light on its feet in spite of its vintage edge.
Slowing down just a bit for ‘So Far From Your Weapon’, the tracks starts off with a much more subdued Mosshart singing, ‘There’s a bullet in my pocket burning a hole.’ As the song builds into the chorus, backing vocals add emphasis to Mosshart’s soft but seemingly sinister statements. The track has a beautiful ambiance to it, ripe with darkly addictive moodiness.
‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’ is the first single off of the album and does a good job encapsulating the sound of The Dead Weather. It’s loud and in your face with a definite quirk and edge. The track’s highest point is a deliciously frenzied breakdown midway as White and Mosshart scream-spell, ‘M-a-n-i-p-ulate.’ The video for the single, directed by Jonathan Glazer, features the pair in a gunfight to the death. The concept works well with the confrontational tone of the track, and it has a strangely modern western feel that mirrors the ‘old but new’ signature sound crafted by the band.
With the next track, ‘Rocking Horse’, the band creates a sultry sound that will have you wanting to sway your hips and scream out ‘Cowabunga.’ It sounds like a bad girl/boy surfer’s theme song and thus it’s the perfect track to blast while you drive through the hot summer air on your way to the beach.
‘New Pony’ is an incredible cover of the Bob Dylan original that rocks hard. I once heard that bad artists imitate, while the good ones steal. This is most definitely The Dead Weather’s case as they truly stole Dylan’s track and made it their own. The band’s twisted vision, heavy sound and sonic mastery combine with Dylan’s provocative lyrics to make for a stellar cover that does not disappoint – which is just as well, as there are a lot of fiercely protective Dylan fans out there.
‘Bone House’ features Ms. Mosshart proudly letting her listeners know that she always gets what she wants. With lyrics like ‘I put your heart in a vault, that’s how I get the things I want,’ this track is an anthem for the femme fatales of the world. If you’re one of those wonderfully bad women, you couldn’t ask for a sexier, more evil-sounding track to relate to.
The only instrumental on the album, ‘3 Birds’, sounds like classic fifties horror movie music for the new millenium. The absence of words isn’t a hindrance – it truly allows the listener to hear all of the intricacies present in this track and the rest of the album without the beautiful distraction of lyrics. ‘3 Birds’ will definitely make sure that you get to grips with the incredibly complex and odd yet totally harmonious sound that the band works together to create.
‘No Hassle Night’ is one of three tracks that were released as downloadable content for the ever-popular Rock Band video game. The drumming moves from fast and hard to a slow, steady pace and back into quick bursts of faster beats that keeps the song interesting and should make for some fun gamplay in the game.
The last track off of the album, ‘Will There Be Enough Water?’, is slow, smooth and gorgeous example of the heavy music heritage that the band has been influenced by from its birthplace in Tennessee. The strong Southern flavours hold true to what country and folk are all about – soul and emotion.
Where living up to supergroup status might be hard for other bands, The Dead Weather makes it look incredibly easy. Mosshart, White, Fertita and Lawrence work together incredibly well, and treat the listeners with a sound that is fresh, raw and rocking all the way through.
Horehound takes the attitude of rock, the palpable emotion of country and the sound of each of their previous bands to create a powerful sound that has earned them the moniker of supergroup in more ways than one.