A more compelling and accomplished effort than what most ostensible supergroups come up with, the Dead Weather’s Horehound is a thick, skuzzy record that sounds slathered in boot-blacking and axle grease. Given the band’s roster (the Kills’s Alison Mosshart, the Raconteurs’s Jack Lawrence, Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita, and Jack White), it’s no surprise that Horehound is steeped in blues formalism, but the extent to which the band has embraced the seedy “Devil’s music” underbelly of the blues genre makes for a far darker, more aggressive record than any of its members’ day-job bands have recorded. From the Oedipal dare of “Treat Me Like Your Mother” to a gender-swapping take on Bob Dylan’s “New Pony,” the content of the songs plays into this aesthetic, but it’s the instrumentation and arrangements that do the heavy lifting. Fertita uses the same metal-flecked guitar techniques White employed on the White Stripes’s “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump” but are taken to a far more severe degree, while White, for his part, bangs out drumlines that remain purposefully off-balance. When the band takes risks with this aesthetic (as on the arrhythmic opener “60 Feet Tall” and the phenomenal “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” on which White half-raps with a surprising swagger), the album works. But there are moments, such as on dirge-like lead single “Hang You from the Heavens” and the nearly identical “No Hassle Night,” when the thickness of their sound becomes turgid. It doesn’t help that Mosshart, though a capable frontwoman, is often more effective as a Shirley Manson-style vamp than a PJ Harvey-style belter: Her voice simply doesn’t have the heft to project the necessary menace. Despite these occasional missteps, though, Horehound establishes the Dead Weather as a fully-realized band with a sufficiently distinctive point of view that deserves serious consideration as more than just a one-off side project.
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