The Dead Weather
(Third Man Records)
Dunno bout you, but if someone’s gonna almost name their debut after a Cramps classic, they’d better have their chops together.
And The Dead Weather most assuredly do. This foursome comes to the party dripping pedigree: Jack White (little intro needed), Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Dean Fertita from QOTSA and Raconteur Jack Lawrence.
Horehound may have been recorded in three weeks in Nashville, but we’re not letting the Motor City thing go, for although McKinley Morganfield and Chester Burnett traipsed the songlines from the Delta up the Mississippi to Chicago whereupon they were transformed through the Tesla coil magic of electric blues into Muddy and Wolf, John Lee Hooker took another route: from Clarksdale to Memphis to Dee-troit.
That holy trinity of psycho-geographical hotpoints gives you Horehound’s main musical co-ordinates. The record fairly oozes industrial black snake moan, while also mating garage fractiousness with late 60s blues explosioneers such as the Cream, the Yardbirds and Led Zep. Yep, plenty of hot and sweaty Zeppelinesque action here. The opening ‘60 Feet Tall’ comes on like a cross between ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Crawling King Snake’ and a slowed down, dirtied up version of Nick & the Bad Seeds’ ‘Jack The Ripper’, while tracks like ‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’ investigate the relationship between Bonzo-powered Physical Graffiti funk and the kind of big beat promulgated by, I dunno, the Chemical Brothers?
If this all sounds suspiciously like the kind of lurid voodoo PJ trafficked circa To Bring You My Love, well, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Their reworking of Dylan’s ‘New Pony’ (swear to god I didn’t recognise it) could’ve been tossed into Harvey’s lurid pink catsuit set at Glastonbury ’95 and no one would’ve noticed the difference.
Horehound definitely cleaves to rhythm rather than melody – you won’t catch your friendly neighbourhood mailman whistling any of these numbers, although they might just approximate the sound of his skillet-sizzling brain as the silicon chip inside his head switches to overload and he goes postal.
The main thing is, the quartet can play the bejesus out of this stuff. The rhythm section is samurai standard, and while White mightn’t have stretched his songwriting instincts too far this time out, his production and performance skills are pretty much beyond reproach. Plus, he always has a ball when he’s got a foil to play off, particularly one as Morticia-magnetic as Mosshart. Listen to the way they trade licks, nips and bites on ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’. Fun, and not a million miles away from this year’s wonderful debut by Joe Gideon and the Shark.
They’re good with mood too. ‘Rocking Horse’ is a Mexarcana Calexico mambo with shimmery guitar, demonic day of the dead vocal and blistering Spanish solo. Here, and on the spooky ‘3 Birds’, the band name makes total sense. The air is malevolent, oppressive, thick with suppressed violence, a boiler about to explode.
Steady as she blows.