The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards

RIYL: The Raconteurs, The Kills, Queens of the Stone Age

The Dead Weather’s second album picks up where 2009’s debut left off and keeps going, which means another tasty platter of dirty, hard-hitting grungy blues rock. You can’t really call it low-fi, because it sounds too good to be low-fi. Drummer/guitarist/producer Jack White does this better than anyone, taking that sludgy blues sound and tweaking everything just right to make it sound vibrant. The man is a true master in this regard. The sound is somewhat similar to his work with the Raconteurs, but not quite as melodic and hooky. But there are some monster grooves here and vocalist Alison Mosshart is akin to a dark angel, laying down a vengeful wrath from seemingly beyond.

“Hustle and Cuss” features Mosshart in prime form. Like most of the album, her vocals almost sound like they were recorded in the bottom of a well, but it lends an otherworldly vibe. White rides the cymbal and there’s great sonic spacing here, which makes every note hit deep. “The Difference Between Us” is another winner, with Mosshart dazzling over the dark and foreboding groove. The blend of psychedelic organ and trippy guitar effects throughout the album is truly unique, with White as a mad scientist of the blues.

“I’m Mad” starts off kind of static, but explodes midway through with some fat riffage and great vocal accents from Mosshart. Lead single “Die by the Drop” mines a similar formula but features a duet between Mosshart and White. It’s probably not going to be a hit, but it’s got a compellingly heavy sound. This kind of sonic mayhem continues throughout the album, to the point that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one song stops and another begins. In this sense, the songwriting could be a little sharper. But that dark, grungy blues sound is so tantalizing.

“I Can Hear You” slows things down a little, with Mosshart as a bluesy mistress intent on collecting the object of her desire. She captivates on “Gasoline,” which features a wicked guitar solo, some huge synth work and cool drum rolls. “No Horse” is more of the dirgy blues, but with White riding the cymbal for a great beat over another fat groove and more dynamic vocals from Mosshart. “Looking at the Invisible Man” is another highlight, with a huge groove, dynamic riffs and another duet between White and Mosshart.

The overall rating on the songs might be only worth three stars, but the album has five-star sound and energy, so that’s four stars overall. (Third Man Records/Warner Brothers2010)

The Dead Weather MySpace page


Quintessential Songs of the ’00s: #1 “Seven Nation Army”

Is it too early to be nostalgic about music from the ’00s?

I heard this song in the car today and I thought it might be the start of a new feature — the quintessential songs of the noughts. Maybe in ten years, some twelve-year-old kid will stumble across this blog and get exposed to some good tunes. Who knows, maybe it will be my boy (who just turned two).

Here are a few fun facts from the song’s wiki page:

The song is known for its underlying riff, which plays throughout most of the song. Although it sounds like a bass guitar (an instrument the group had famously never previously used), the sound is actually created by running Jack White’s semi-acoustic guitar (a 1950s style Kay Hollowbody) through a Digitech Whammy pedal set down an octave. The riff was composed at a sound check before a show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia.

According to White, “Seven Nation Army” is what he used to call the Salvation Army as a child.

Italian football fans and ultras picked the song up when Roma played in and against Club Brugge for the UEFA Cup. [8] They often chant the song’s signature guitar riff ever since, most notably during Italy’s campaign in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. About 10 million Italians, all across the nation, were supposedly singing the song during celebrations following the final victory.

A few more tidbits from SongFacts:

This, along with the rest of [Elephant], was recorded on analogue equipment that was over 50 years old at Toe Rag Studios. Toe Rag Studios were set up in Hackney, east London in 1991 as a strictly analogue enterprise using only pre-1960 studio equipment. The success of Elephant established Toe Rag as a trendy antidote to digital music-making.

According to White neither the labels in America or in the UK wanted to put this out as the first single. They eventually relented and it became the White Stripes’ first Hot 100 hit in the US and Top 10 entry in Britain.

More Quintessential Songs of the ’00s.


The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights

RIYL: Going to White Stripes concerts

Recorded throughout their 2007 Canadian tour, Under The Great White Northern Lights doubles as the White Stripes’ first live album and as the soundtrack to the tour documentary of the same name. A Canadian tour may be an unlikely source from which to cull live material, but it’s clear that Jack and Meg have enthusiasm for their neighbors to the north, since they absolutely shredded it for them.

Under Great White Northern Lights accurately conveys the manic, almost primal, energy of a White Stripes concert. The way the two tear through “Let’s Shake Hands” and “Blue Orchid” is brutal, Meg pounds every beat like it’s her last and Jack practically tears the guitar to pieces with every riff and yells every line with such sincerity and intensity that they all sounds like personal insults directed the person whom he hates the most. The spiteful “Citizen Kane”-inspired jibes of “The Union Forever” sound just as scornful and hate-filled as they did when they first recorded that song nearly 10 years ago. If Jack and Meg are sick of this material, they sure as hell aren’t showing it.

But when they are sick of a song it sure shows. Rightfully tired of “Fell in Love with a Girl,” they try to turn it into a slow jam to mix things up, but without the manic riff that’s present on the album version, that song just falls apart. They also try to turn it into a sing-along during the chorus but throughout most of the album the Canadians suck at audience participation. Their delays in prompted singing cause more than one stumble in Jack’s pacing and when it comes time for quiet songs like “We Are Going to Be Friends” they just don’t know when the hell to shut up. A gaggle of screamers ruin that recording, drowning out Jack’s heartfelt lyrics with constant high-pitched squealing. It’s unbearably annoying.

But when the audience shuts up and when Jack and Meg don’t radically deviate from the source material in distracting ways, there’s little to complain about on this album. Sure, it’s easy to whine about some notable omissions (no “Hotel Yorba,” “The Hardest Button to Button” or “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground,” for instance) but instead focus on the rarities that are included. The Dolly Parton classic “Jolene” has been a live staple for the White Stripes since their inception, and this marks the first time it’s been included on an album proper. Same goes for “Let’s Shake Hands,” which was the band’s first release as a single back in 1998. Hardcore fans will more likely care about that than the bigger well-known tracks that are excluded. In fact, what’s probably most maddening about Under Great White Northern Lights is that it’ll have you jonesing even more for new White Stripes. The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs just aren’t cutting it anymore. (Third Man 2010)

The White Stripes’ MySpace Page


Don’t cover your ears for “It Might Get Loud”

Yeah, you see that right — it’s the Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White noodling together in a big-ass guitar summit, and someone was close by with a camera to capture the whole thing. That “someone” was Davis Guggenheim, who conducted interviews with the axe-gunning trio for his upcoming documentary “It Might Get Loud.” The “Inconvenient Truth” director spoke with each guitarist about his personal musical journey — and it culminated, of course, in a jam session. Watch the trailer below, and keep an eye on Bullz-Eye’s coverage for more!


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