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Album Review

by The Dead Weather

Sony Music

Review Date
27th July 2009
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

I really wanted to dislike this band - I really didn’t think Jack White needed another blues rock well styled with-members-of-already-side-projected-out bands. Add Alison Mosshart to the equation and I thought this was going to be a leather clad, fur wielding base-less lesson in appropriate packaging and, well, wearing the right boots and employing the right video clip directors.

BUT, listen to the album, as a whole (the live performance of ‘Hang you from the heavens’ on The Late Show was horrifically bad, which potentially compounded my ‘wanting to dislike this album’ status) they’re stylized to the point of cringe because they kind of seem to live it. And they’ve arrived fully fashioned as a band that knows exactly what they want to do, and who they want to be, and what they want to portray, which in the age of five-seconds-to-fame media hyperactivity, is super refreshing.

Having cajoled my co-workers into listening to this a couple of times fully through consecutively, proper listening duties occurred at home, on a starkly cold winters’ night looking out into my neighbours backyard which was bleakly still and kind of dead, with cigarette and wine in hand pre Die! Die! Die! And it totally suited. They’re stylized because this is music for landscapes that create moods and feelings, and a little bit of anxiety. Just like those voodooed swamp states that White’s entourage obviously envisioned when writing Horehound, this is the kind of music that needs to be listened to in the bleakest and most idyllic, and yet equally unnerving circumstances, with a glass of whisky, brandy or red wine in tow, waiting for White’s guitar lines and Mossharts shriek to pierce the stillness.

And this piercing of stillness takes some time, but once there, probably midway through ‘Hang you from the heavens’, it seldom lets up. Whether it’s Mosshart belting out the scarily Oedipus-referenced lyrics on ‘Treat me like your mother’, or Whites vocals (“Is that your choking”) and assaulting organ on ‘Cut like a buffalo’, it persists until outro ‘Will there be enough water’ - and the admittedly super lame video clip that witnesses White and Mosshart shooting at each other for three-and-a-half-minutes, striking holes in eachothers’ oh-so-cool leather jackets – slaps you back down to size.

Obviously because of all the record label bureaucratic confusion that went on with getting QOTSA, The Kills, The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs and The White Stripes intellectual property keyholders on one album, each track is credited to the appropriate member rather than the band as a whole. The singular track credited to White – ‘Cut Like a Buffalo’ - is the highlight of the album, combining the elements that The White Stripes have always excelled out; gutsy blues lyrical ramblings accompanied by altogether progressive additions, in this case Mossharts back-up and some house of horrors organ solos, which kind of seems to chase you throughout the track. However, the co-written ‘Treat me like your mother’, ‘Bone House’ and ‘3 Birds’ (during which there is an amazing scary clown carnival breakdown that wouldn’t go amiss on the soundtrack to It) probably encapsulate the refined sexy-swampiness (this is not a dichotomy for once) of the album as a whole, allowing the tracks written by individual members (Mossharts ‘So far from your weapon’ is a good example’ of bringing the sexy) to slot appropriately in between.

So listen to it alone, on a wind free night, and maybe your surroundings will take on that supernatural power they supposedly do in New Orleans on particular evenings - but only if you’re prepared to get pretty freaked out.

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