But you have to pick up this album.
Here's Pitchfork's review of it. Surprisingly enough, I actually liked the review.
Pretty much every city in North America has an FM radio station boasting a slogan along the lines of "Where Classic Rock Lives!" But really, these are the places where classic rock goes to die, fossilized onto playlists that haven't been updated since the second Black Crowes album. You think it's hard getting attention for your psych-folk-disco-shitgaze collective? Try being an up-and-coming meat-and-potatoes blues-rock band, who are shut out from both hipster-blog discourse and the sort of mainstream media channels that theoretically should be nurturing them. Most people laughed at the Blueshammer scene in Ghost World; me, I just felt sorry for those dudes-- because once they leave that bar, there's really nowhere else for them to go.
The plight of the post-millennial blues-rocker thus makes Jack White's ascent to superstardom all the more remarkable, having refashioned such dead-horse devices as slide-geetar riffs and Bonham-style boogies into something both exciting and exceedingly profitable. And he's done it by not just honoring the blues' authenticity, but exploiting the music's capacity for mythology, using it to color his world any way he sees fit, be it the candy-striped fantasyland of the White Stripes, or the wood-panelled, Dazed and Confused-style nostalgia trip of the Raconteurs. And it's the reason he's been able to extend his golden touch to now a third band, the Dead Weather, who delve even deeper into the blues' swampy roots and devil's-music deviancy, but in a manner that's every bit as stylized, sexually charged, and trashy as an episode of "True Blood".
Of course, the major difference this time out is that White's dropped the guitar and returned to his first instrument, the drums. But the rear-admiral position hardly diminishes his presence; arguably, it gives him an even better vantage point to direct his cast, which includes Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, Queens of the Stone Age keyboardist/guitarist Dean Fertita, and, in the starring role, Alison Mosshart of the Kills. Even though the Dead Weather is unquestionably a full-band effort, Horehound is designed as a showcase for its lead vocalist as much as the White-produced Van Lear Rose was for Loretta Lynn-- Mosshart's face is front and center on the album cover, and after the cool electro-pop maneuvers of the Kills' Midnight Boom, her cat-in-heat performances on Horehound suggest an eagerness to bust out of that band's minimalist, drum-machined parameters, and give the sort of scrappy, scuzz-rock songs that defined the Kills' early releases a full-blooded treatment.
But while built from the same rudiments as its principals' other bands, the Dead Weather are greatly distinguished by a richness of atmosphere. Over its 11 tracks, Horehound rarely relents in its murky, humid, southern-gothic ambience-- one that's greatly thickened by Fertita's Dr. John-style organ mojo and Lawrence's array of fuzz-bass effects. And if both the White Stripes and the Raconteurs have traditionally positioned their singles in the album-opener slots, the Dead Weather take their sweet time to settle into the deep marshland miasma of "60 Feet Tall"; taking a page from PJ Harvey's size-queen routine, Mosshart belts out the title as a badge of invincibility while the song ebbs and flows between solitary blues-picking and eruptions of blast-furnace noise. On top of setting up Horehound's greyscale scenery, "60 Feet Tall" also establishes White's drumming style for the album-- simple and steady-as-she-goes, favoring tension-building snare-rim rolls and strategically placed cymbal taps, with echoplexed accents to expand the sense of space.
Or, in the case of the less-than-incendiary (and not entirely representative) single "Hang You From the Heavens" or its sluggish sister track, "No Hassle Night", he'll trip up the rhythm in an attempt to make a repetitive blues-rocker sound more dynamic. But even when perched behind the kit, White's not one to turn down a duet with fetching female foil, and Horehound really shows its teeth when he and Mosshart battle for mic control. Thankfully they do often, blurring their voices on the gender-bending reggaeified funk strut "I Cut Like a Buffalo"; playing call-and-response on a deliciously sleazy Led Zepped take on Bob Dylan's "New Pony" and the Bad Seedy chain-gang chant "So Far From Your Weapon"; and, literally, playing tug of war for control of the Royal-monster-Trux groover "Treat Me Like Your Mother", which in Mosshart's hands sounds like less a plea for respect than an Oedipal enticement. Even Horehound's most reverential blues gesture-- the strung-out acoustic reverie "Will There Be Enough Water"-- retains the album's haunted vibe, with a completely spent White and Mosshart begging for a few life-saving drops that they know will never come.
The songs on Horehound don't so much rock as writhe, reinstituting the idea of the blues as a sinister, morally corrupting force that's as much the province of voodoo priests and witch doctors as musicians. Perhaps Jack White's continued dominance over contemporary blues-rock is in fact the product of some deal with the devil-- and if that means more bands as fully realized as the Dead Weather, let's hope that Beelzebub will consider a contract renewal.
They gave it a 7.5.