Plumbiferous Media

Sea of Cowards - The Dead Weather

May 20th 2010
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Sea of Cowards - The Dead WeatherThe Dead Weather
Sea of Cowards
Score: 77

Jack White’s newest album, Sea of Cow­ards, is his sec­ond with side project The Dead Weath­er, released just under a year after the group’s debut, Hore­hound. The band’s sopho­more album uses the same mem­bers, lead­ing to the same sort of musi­cal make­up as was demon­strat­ed in Hore­hound, but with a def­i­nite pro­gres­sion from that album which itself, espe­cial­ly giv­en the expe­ri­ence of every­one involved, was ulti­mate­ly dis­ap­point­ing. Sea of Cow­ards isn’t per­fect; how­ev­er, it’s sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter than Hore­hound, and it does a much bet­ter job at demon­strat­ing the skill of White’s Dead Weath­er.

Tak­ing a cue per­haps from noise music, Sea of Cow­ards is defined by strange­ly struc­tured cacoph­o­ny. Drums, voice, elec­tric gui­tar, and synth, all excel­lent on their own, seem to be try­ing to forge their own paths, yet in one way or anoth­er, every­thing links togeth­er, thus some­how still cre­at­ing a pow­er­ful, cap­ti­vat­ing track. While the whole while main­tain­ing a dense array of some­how not-quite-con­flict­ing sounds, Sea of Cow­ards ranges between being sur­pris­ing­ly con­trolled and com­plete­ly out of con­trol, some­times in a sin­gle track (such as the fit­ting­ly titled “I’m Mad”).

On Sea of Cow­ards, Ali­son Mosshart is once again respon­si­ble for lead vocals, while White takes a back­ing posi­tion - but one that is at least some­what less in the back­ground than it was on Hore­hound. White’s rough coun­try tones are giv­en the chance to rip into the music when they take the fore­ground, while Mosshart’s almost equal­ly strong voice pro­vides the rest. Unlike Hore­hound, Sea of Cow­ards places each vocal­ist in the best place for their own sound. When every­thing goes per­fect­ly, the two vocal­ists swoop about each oth­er, tak­ing con­cert­ed jabs at the sound that pro­vides Sea of Cow­ards with its ener­gy - and even when it doesn’t, it still works very well.

As usu­al for White’s work, Sea of Cow­ards is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple lyri­cal­ly, but, as the lyrics aren’t real­ly the focus of the music, that’s gen­er­al­ly for­giv­able. Sim­plic­i­ty aside, on Sea of Cow­ards as much as Hore­hound, The Dead Weath­er tends to come up with the occa­sion­al gen­uine­ly inter­est­ing line or stan­za - usu­al­ly made even bet­ter by their com­bi­na­tion with the music. One of Sea of Cow­ards’ best exam­ples is the open­ing of “Hus­tle and Cuss,” where Mosshart sings “Knock on the door / And the door knocks back / The joke nev­er go no fur­ther than that / Fire goes back inside the match / Back down the stack,” in just the kind of vibrant­ly odd depic­tion that makes Sea of Cow­ards so vivid.

The best aspect of Sea of Cow­ards is how amaz­ing­ly well every­thing man­ages to fit togeth­er, despite enor­mous odds. That said, the effort put into each track does seem to dwin­dle as the album pro­gress­es. While much of Sea of Cow­ards is clear­ly thought out, and ter­rif­i­cal­ly imple­ment­ed, lat­er tracks are sim­ply not as cre­ative, and even some­what for­get­table. Still, there is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more good than bad on the album.

Sea of Cow­ards is a some­what strange album, and it def­i­nite­ly takes a cer­tain mind­set or open­ness of mind to com­plete­ly appre­ci­ate, but it is worth it. The Dead Weath­er has def­i­nite­ly start­ed tak­ing advan­tage of its excel­lent make­up, and the odd inter­ac­tions between the always excel­lent instru­ments and vocals alike, all try­ing to push and shove and make out on top, yet always end­ing up work­ing togeth­er, result in some extreme­ly inter­est­ing and unique music. Sea of Cow­ards is not per­fect, but The Dead Weath­er should def­i­nite­ly con­tin­ue to work out what is still miss­ing.

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