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The Dead Weather– Horehound (Album Review)

Freakin’ Jack White.

If there’s anything more annoying than a guy who can’t make up his mind, it’s a guy who turns every half-baked idea into a gold-plated success.

Our boy Jack is guilty as sin on both counts. First and foremost, of course, the singer-guitarist is the brains behind The White Stripes. And, since ex-wife Meg seems to have lost her shpedoinkle for touring, he’s got his Nashville rock outfit The Ranconteurs. But is that enough for White? Noooooo. He’s gotta have a side project for his side project. So now we also have The Dead Weather, another blues-punk outfit with Ranconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Kills vocalist Allison Mosshart.

Like everything White does, their album was reportedly dashed off in a week or two this spring. And like everything White does, it smokes. Horehound’s 11 cuts chase the hoodoo down with a posse of snarling guitars, crash-bash drums, chicken-shack organ and transfixing grooves, while evil seductress Mosshart’s witchy vocals lend a PJ Harvey-meets-Royal Trux vibe to the whole affair. Oh, and just to make his triumph even more annoying, White plays drums in the band (though he apparently contributes guitar, keyboards and vocals on the disc).

So, what next? Well, we can only presume he’ll start a power trio with fellow Type A rockers Josh Homme of QOTSA / Eagles of Death Metal and Damon Albarn of Blur / Gorillaz / Monkey / The Good, The Bad and The Queen. White will probably play bagpipes. And their CD will probably destroy.

Freakin’ guy.

60 Feet Tall 5:33

As openers go, this is more sneak attack than all-out assault — a smouldering hypno-blues slowly evolves from nothing, then explodes into a firestorm of guitars. “You’ve got my attention,” moans Mosshart. Ours too.

Hang You From the Heavens 3:38

Welcome to the single — a simple catchy riff, a hooky chorus and some serious guitar abuse, anchored by a syncopated beat that keeps you offbalance (and proves White really can drum).

I Cut Like a Buffalo 3:27

Out go the guitars. In come a stabbing Hammond organ and a laid-back groove. Bonus points for lyrics that ask “Is that you choking?” over the sound of someone retching.

So Far From Your Weapon 3:40

Mosshart leads the band in call-and-response vocals over a slowly rolling, quietly mesmerizing blues reminiscent of John Lee Hooker. Soothing and ominous at the same time.

Treat Me Like Your Mother 4:11

“I’m just like your mother,” spits Alison. Thanks for that visual, Ms. Freud. As the lumpy funk jam shifts gears midstream, some barking, rap-style vocals ruin the retro effect.

Rocking Horse 2:59

White and Mosshart harmonize on a serving of spaghetti western desert-blues, with twangy guitars and a blistering solo from Fertita, underscored by a nimble bassline from Lawrence.

New Pony 3:58

An obscurity from Dylan’s 1978 offering Street Legal, revved up to a mammoth blues-metal outing of Zeppish proportions — with a slice of Sab’s War Pigs on the side.

Bone House 3:27

Mosshart pitches a hissy fit about always getting what she wants, while Jack and co. smack out a fairly generic blues-rocker. The wildly oscillating treated guitar is the star of the show.

3 Birds 3:44

Another slice of desert-dry noir strung together with plenty of reverb, twang, tremolo and vibrato — except this time it’s an instrumental. What are you, The Sadies?

No Hassle Night 2:56

After a crash-bash intro, things settle down into a seductive slow-grinding groove, with Mosshart purring suggestively that she’s “looking for a place to go.” Short and sweet.

Will There Be Enough Water 6:20

White and co. sail into the sunset with a dusty waltz built from a noodling acoustic guitar, a ringing upright piano and lazy vocals, set atop lethargically brushed drums.