Here we have a collection of aggressive musicians, all making a record together. Whose ideas dominate? Jack White is the natural choice, being a band member/producer, seemingly infusing each track with the stereotypical White grime-laced overtones. But in reality quite a few tracks, including first single "Hang You Up From The Heavens" cite only Mosshart and guitarist Dean Fertita (of Queens Of The Stone Age) as writers. In fact, the writing is pretty even across the board, weaving a pretty convincing web of balance. And then there is the fact that Jack isn't even front and center; he's actually sitting behind the drum kit.
But The Dead Weather does well to choose this particular combination/set-up of musicians to create their minimalist, gritty brand of rock and roll. And for a relatively small amount of instrumentation, they manage to make a dynamic sound blow up, shrink down, and blow up again consistently for an entire record... the drums move from thunderclaps to feather dusting, and back. The guitar goes from a sliding whimper to a monstrous distorted roar. The voice of Allison Mosshart is sometimes sweet and tempting, sometimes ferocious and menacing. "I stand tall like a tower/Then I fall like a domino" is the lyric in "Cut Like A Buffalo," and it is an apt comparison for the vigorous sound crafted throughout the album. It's both unexpected and cohesive.
And even though White's drumming is as pivotal to the dynamics as the riffs and squeals (and to the excitement), the balance is what makes Horehound such a successful record. The sound is very raw grunge-y blues, but with a little more structure than Icky Thump, and a little more intensity than The Racounteurs. "60 Feet Tall," the opening track, is almost perfect in it's oscillating buildup to the breakdown. The simple riff matched with White's stick taps, blending into the sultry Mosshart spinning bluesy yarns, creates the kind of anticipation you need right out the gate of a rock record. Cymbals come in and out of play, each instrument working it's magic for when all hell breaks loose, and the song takes a turn to head banging, guitar soloing, ear trouncing interlude. This goes back and forth a few times.
And thus Dead Weather achieve a sort of modern vintage sound, the kind you feel that White has strived for his whole career, but never quite nailed down properly. The White Stripes were too poppy to be chic, and The Raconteurs never sounded so badass. Here Mosshart gets away with lines like "I had a pony/his name was Lucifer." Here the gang gets away with chanting "how much?" over a booming drum groove. And finally the sounds normally associated with White get a tune-up and achieve new American rock minimalism without sounding forced or transparent. Now let's hope this isn't just a fleeting romance between four talents. - joe puglisi