released May 11th, 2010

from the album - Die By The Drop

from all music

Another project founded by Jack White, Dead Weather began after the Raconteurs toured the U.S. with the Kills in summer 2008. Toward the end of the tour, bronchitis made it difficult for White to sing as much as usual, so Kills singer Alison Mosshart was drafted to sing several of his songs. Mosshart's on-stage chemistry with the Raconteurs led to White, Mosshart, bassist "Little Jack" Lawrence, and White's house guest, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita, recording a cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" The newly formed band began working on a full album at White's Third Man Studios in Nashville TN, with White on drums for the first time since his stint in Goober & the Peas. Dead Weather finished recording their album in a matter of weeks, crafting a sound influenced by White's and Mosshart's other projects but with a darker feel. The band made its live debut in March 2009, performing a short set for 150 friends at Third Man's offices to celebrate the release of the single Hang You from the Heavens/Are Friends Electric?; a month later, they played their first official gig at New York's Bowery Ballroom. Horehound, Dead Weather's debut album, arrived that summer. The band kept up the rapid pace, continuing to tour and record through 2009. Mosshart announced that Dead Weather's second album was halfway done that October, and in March 2010, the single Die by the Drop arrived. Sea of Cowards, which boasted a heavier and more integrated sound than the band's debut, appeared that May.

album review

Sea of Cowards arrived less than a year after the Dead Weather’s debut Horehound, an album that sounded like a bootleg of a 3 a.m. jam session — not a surprise, really, considering that the idea for the band came out of impromptu playing at Jack White’s house. It’s also unsurprising that the Dead Weather evolved quickly, given that the group went from releasing Horehound to touring to recording again almost nonstop. Sea of Cowards isn’t a radical change from Horehound’s smoky, sludgy sound — if anything, White, Alison Mosshart, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence go even deeper into their classic rock and blues fetishes — but it feels more organic, the product of a band instead of four separate personalities. A quick glance at the album’s liner notes shows they wrote these songs in almost every conceivable combination, yet Sea of Cowards sounds more cohesive: dense and charged like the air just before a rainstorm, replete with fat bass lines and heavy organ solos equally inspired by ‘70s album rock and silent movie scores. Most of Horehound’s loose ends have been trimmed, but Sea of Cowards still has plenty of weird moments. Witness the lunging lead single and album opener “Blue Blood Blues,” which shows just how much more solid and dynamic the Dead Weather became since their debut — and also features breathy backing vocals that are more than a little creepy. Sea of Cowards also fulfills Horehound’s promise of letting Mosshart be the band’s front woman. She carries many of these songs, adding spark and shade to their monochromatic tones. “The Difference Between Us” is a particularly bright spotlight for her, showcasing her intense vocals as the band’s blues-rock takes on a dark, sci-fi pop edge thanks to an eerie keyboard riff. Her interplay with White is also more intuitive and exciting: on “Hustle and Cuss,” they switch between singing lead and harmony, with White taking a high part and Mosshart the commanding low; on the trippy blues-metal workout “I’m Mad,” their voices are almost interchangeable, suggesting they could be brother and sister. Like Horehound, most of Sea of Cowards’ songs grapple with the yin-yang of love and hate, with “Die by the Drop” and “Gasoline” yielding some of the most potent results. The album’s deviations from the Dead Weather’s signature sound are also more distinct than they were on Horehound, but Sea of Cowards’ weirdest track is all White’s: “Old Mary,” a psychedelic dirge that plays on the verses of the Catholic prayer “Hail Mary,” closes the album on a unique, if unsettling, note. Sea of Cowards is often cryptic and almost always unrepentantly old-fashioned, its A side featuring most of the singles and its B side playing like one long jam. White and company make almost no concessions to their audience, and fewer songs stand out here than did on Horehound. And yet, this is a more satisfying album overall. Fortunately, Sea of Cowards’ mysteries are more intriguing than frustrating.

Track Listing

1 Blue Blood Blues Fertita, Lawrence, White 3:22
2 Hustle and Cuss Lawrence, Mosshart 3:45
3 The Difference Between Us Mosshart, White 3:37
4 I'm Mad Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart ... 3:16
5 Die by the Drop Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart 3:29
6 I Can't Hear You Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart ... 3:35
7 Gasoline Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart ... 2:44
8 No Horse Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart ... 2:49
9 Looking at the Invisible Man Fertita, White 2:42
10 Jawbreaker Fertita, Lawrence, Mosshart 2:58
11 Old Mary White 2:52