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)

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