Plumbiferous Media

Horehound – The Dead Weather

Jul 16th 2009
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Horehound - The Dead WeatherThe Dead Weather
Score: 42

The Dead Weather is Jack White’s latest supergroup, with Alison Mosshart, Dean Fertita, and Jack Lawrence making up the other three quarters of the band. The style this time around seems to stray even farther from The White Stripes than White’s group from last year, The Raconteurs, did, adding a hefty amount of experimentation to a sound already filled with influences from a large number of genres. The difference between the two groups that is most notable, however, is that White has chosen primarily to be the drummer of The Dead Weather, giving his unique voice a break. But while diverting the drum line away from the hands of Meg White certainly aided The Raconteurs, this newest change did not benefit The Dead Weather, leaving its album, Horehound far less compelling than, say, Consolers of the Lonely.

On Horehound, The Dead Weather has the distinct advantage of being able to combine the voices of two experienced singers. This prevents Horehound from being just another album from either White’s White Stripes or Mossheart’s Kills. However, it doesn’t quite take advantage of the synergy of the two voices which, with their complementary attributes, could have been quite well combined to create an interesting (and rewarding) mix. Instead, they’re fit together with less care; they don’t ever quite work perfectly and even occasionally clash. Additionally, the moments when both vocalists are in sync, as they do on “So Far From Your Weapon,” are often covered over by the music itself – in that case by overused synthetic effects.

Horehound is filled with the sort of experimentation that should add a level of creativity to the album, from the rhythmic energy of “I Cut Like a Buffalo” to the rather inventive cover of “New Pony.” But very little of the experimentation actually makes for enjoyable music. The energy of “Buffalo” doesn’t quite work to support a cohesive track, and “New Pony” is over-inventive, most notably with the vocals (which seem stretched for the sake of experimentation), to the point where it doesn’t come close to doing justice to the original.

Lyrically, Horehound is not strong or weak – it is simply forgettable. Though The Dead Weather is obviously trying to create memorable, odd lyrics, for which White and Mossheart have been known in their respective projects, it doesn’t quite succeed. Instead, it turns out uninteresting (and unoriginal) lines like “You’re so cold and dangerous / I can’t leave you be.” Frequent repetition certainly doesn’t help this – though a few of the best lines from the album, like the slightly perplexing “You know I look like a woman / But I cut like a buffalo,” manage to be repeated without becoming completely banal.

Where The Dead Weather most often triumphs is in the instrumentals. The drums on Horehound immediately make their presence known with the rather heavy line on “60 Feet Tall;” however, The Dead Weather succeeded in reining in the drums for the following track, “Hang You from the Heavens,” in which the drummer quite stunningly manages to take over the melody during a fill around the 35 second mark. More impressively, during “New Pony,” the drums support the entire track for a good portion of the third minute, following the guitar solo. The other instruments also have their highs and lows on Horehound. While “I Cut Like a Buffalo” retains a significant, ill-fitting reggae influence, the guitar line on “Rocking Horse,” though incredibly repetitive, never becomes tiring, and acts as a major point of interest for the track. Towards the end of the album, on “No Hassle Night,” a standard Jack White guitar line is paired with a high line that seems entirely uncharacteristic of White’s style yet fits with the rest of the track quite well.

Though the collaboration of Allison Mossheart and Jack White in The Dead Weather was certainly an exciting possibility, Horehound wasn’t as successful as it could have been. The truly inventive and interesting parts of Horehound are often drowned out by those less so, and the failed experiments are much more prominent than the successful. It’s true that Horehound isn’t entirely unsuccessful – tracks like “Hang You from the Heavens” indicate that The Dead Weather can use all of the resources available to them to create a genuinely engaging track – but, for the majority of Horehound, they’ve instead chosen to blindly experiment.

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