We all know who and what Jack White is, so we’re not going to spend too long looking at how amazing it is that he has time/energy for another side project. Others have and continue to tend to that rather simple question. Anyway, too much is made of the alma mater of The Dead Weather‘s members – haven’t most people in decent bands played elsewhere before? – whereas we should be asking not why do we have The Dead Weather, but why aren’t they a better band than they are?
Sea Of Cowards sounds like it was jammed out by the band while the tape was rolling. For a rock recording to cherish that rough-hewn texture is never necessarily a hindrance, but the tunes must be there to support the whole thing. State isn’t sure that this goes for TDW, who, once again on this second LP, have a palpable whiff of the same song playing 11 times in a row.
This could be down to the vocals. Mosshart is undoubtedly a fine frontwoman with a whiplash thrust to her delivery that serves this and her other project The Kills most well. Equally, White’s is a voice now enshrined in modern rock n’ roll, a pubescent yelp, part Jerry Lee Lewis, part Janis Joplin. But it’s disappointing that the two only occasionally interlock to properly kick out the jams. -Die By The Drop’ sees them as a petulant united front, with White squealing repeats of Mosshart’s swaggering, come-and-have-a-go couplets. Most of the time, they just layer their spits and sneers on top of each other, and fire them out tunelessly between riffs. Again and again.
But elsewhere, hints of TDW’s pedigree emerge. It’s admittedly very percussive, dirty and groovy (which one suspects is the supergroup’s raison d’Ãªtre). Slabs of organ carry beefy, bassey riffs aloft. It’s unhurried for most of the time, but will hurtle off in interesting directions, such as -I’m Mad”s stoner, space-blues wig out. The guitar phrasings of -Gasoline’ – what Pitchfork scribes might refer to as -histrionics’ – command attention too.
With Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s recent misfiring on their latest offering, there remains a use for The Dead Weather – that of keeping the sneering leather-jacket crowd fed. For this, they deliver, but it’s hard to see them inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame any time soon. Like Horehound before it, Sea Of Cowards is too concerned with conveying the style and attitude of its famous makers, rather than being resonant, exciting rock music. It’s not another string to White’s bow, but he has hinted that he’s in this for the long haul. If so, TDW may one day drop the black uniforms, forget themselves and their CVs, and write like their lives depend on it. That, for sure, would be a beautiful thing.