Last Friday saw the release of the second album from Jack White's third (is it third? I'm losing count...) project, the Dead Weather. The Dead Weather sees White on drums for the first time since his early days in the Upholsterers, with the Kills' Alison Mosshart, Queens of the Stone Age's Dean Fertita and White's fellow Raconteur and former Greenhorne, Jack Lawrence, completing the outfit. They released their first album, Horehound, last year to mixed acclaim. Some very good tracks and some rather forgettable offerings, though the highlights (and the band's live shows) all suggested that there was something very good hidden away here. And luckily, it comes to the fore on Sea of Cowards.
The first single, Die By The Drop, was released on March 30th and gave a little taster of what to expect from the album. It seemed to be the same formula - that dirty, sexy guitar sound that was ever present in the Kills' work and a back and forth between White and Mosshart. But something seemed to fit better this time. To me, it just seems as though White has had more of an input in the structure of the tracks. It is hard to imagine Jack not being in the driving seat, but the whole first album felt like a release from the Kills, rather than the White Stripes. Now, ideally the work would take on a completely unique form - but with such strong personalities in tow it was always likely to lean towards a previous project.
Ironically, however, Die By the Drop was penned by the OTHER three members of the band - Jack had no input... Well... Not directly anyway.
The album opener, Blue Blood Blues, sets the tone of things to come. It is a fantastic, grungey track. Unfortunately, the album hits a lull pretty early on - the Lawrence/Mosshart track, Hustle and Cuss, is pretty bland. However the album swings back into life with track 4, I'm Mad and enters into a great run - Die By the Drop, I Cant Hear You, Gasoline and No Horse - this quartet to exactly what the Dead Weather are about: old fashioned, sexy rock & roll. Track 11 stands out too - it is the only one penned solely by White, and has a real White Stripes feel to it. Old Mary epitomises that blues ideology White is constantly aspiring to.
For me, the album highlight comes in track 8 - Gasoline. The writing is attributed to all 4 members of the band and it seems to have taken something from each of their previous works: that raw energy of the Kills, the sexy guitar of Queens of the Stone Age and a stunning guitar solo that screams vintage White Stripes [though I believe it's Mr. Fertita that's plucking the strings on this one...] Mosshart has never sounded better and this is up there with the best tracks that any of the four have written to this date, certainly the best thing recorded by the Dead Weather so far.
The Dead Weather are not without their flaws - one track often seems to take the same shape as another, hence the reason the likes of Old Mary and Gasoline really stand out. The former has a spoken word verse, while the latter shrieks to life with a guitar solo. However, while these flaws dogged the first album, the band seem to have overcome them on the majority of this album. Much more accessible that the first album, it really grows after repeated listenings. It does exactly what they have promised all along: dirty, sexy rock & roll.
The Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards: 8.5/10. A real improvement from White, Mosshart and co.