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The Dead Weather
Sea Of Cowards
Third Man Records
www.thedeadweather.com


It's difficult not to think of The Dead Weather as a slightly reversed The White Stripes, where the drumming girl has moved to lead vocals while the lead guitarist/singer has relocated back behind the skins. Oh, and the membership is multiplied by two.

Alison Mosshart, of The Kills, is a fine vocalist. But she oftentimes sounds a whole lot like a female version of Jack White, particularly because of her world weary singing during "The Difference between Us". The Dead Weather's drumming is significantly funkier - at least exemplified by Sea Of Cowards - than almost anything in The White Stripes' catalogue. "I'm Mad" has a groove going for it that is somewhat buried underneath its dirty guitars. But "Hustle and Cuss" is like Blaxploitation-meets-alternative rock. Dean Fertita is listed as the group's lead guitarist, although White's signature sound can be heard throughout the disc. "I'm Mad" is all spaced-out guitar, rather than filled with White's usual update of the blues, which may mark it as Fertita work. However, "Gasoline" is clearly a White solo. The same can be said about "Jawbreaker".

Mosshart is the main vocalist in this quartet. Nevertheless, White takes a few turns behind the microphone, as well. It's especially fun to hear Mosshart and White trade vocal lines during the call-and-response of "Die By The Drop". Jack has been known to sing with Meg White on The White Stripes' recordings, but while Meg is a purring kitten, Mosshart's a full-on roaring lion. If these pairings were compared to a prize fight, Mosshart would be a much more worthy opponent for Mr. White.

If you're looking for a lyrical theme on Sea Of Cowards, good luck. Its songs are mostly about the give & take in relationships, with metaphors stretched out nearly beyond logical comprehension. Yet, isn't that all part of the fun in a Jack White project? He keeps the mystique up on a vaunted pedestal, which leads to a whole lot of curious speculation. For instance, "Old Mary" incorporates a Catholic prayer into its lyric. This is significant because White once seriously considered entering the priesthood. Go ahead guessers, guess away!

In some small ways, Sea Of Cowards bravely goes where few Jack White recordings have gone before. Nevertheless, it also travels a familiar path, which makes for plenty of pleasurable sailing.

-Dan MacIntosh

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