Sound — 7
After The Kills frontwoman Alison Mossheart was made an emergency fill-in for vocal duties of The Raconteurs when Jack White had lost his voice, this variation would soon result in a new project, The Dead Weather, essentially being a permanent adaptation of The Raconteurs (bassist Jack Lawrence and touring guitarist Dean Fertita would join The Dead Weather by osmosis, leaving Raconteurs co-founder Brendan Benson cut out of the picture). With lead vocal and guitarist duties being filled, The Dead Weather better satisfied White's creative itch by letting him play the role of drummer - a role he's seldom played and wanted to expand upon - and with the newly-formed supergroup churning out two albums in two years, 2009's "Horehound" and 2010's "Sea of Cowards," the initial inspiration was palpably surging.
But per inevitable fate of supergroups, The Dead Weather would split up in light of duty calling for main projects: White tended to his solo career; Mossheart released another album with The Kills; Lawrence recorded bass for City And Colour's "The Hurry and the Harm"; and Fertita would help record Queens Of The Stone Age's anticipated returning album, "...Like Clockwork." Now, after five years since the end of their first stint together, The Dead Weather have reunited for their third album, "Dodge and Burn."
Despite the time away from each other, "Dodge and Burn" is, for the most part, The Dead Weather getting back to business in their expected style. Spanning from the noteworthy activity in "Let Me Through" and the memorable guitar/organ melodies in "Lose the Right," to the more drab riffs in "Rough Detective" and "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)," riffs here are steady and down-to-earth, placing the album's energy between the soft-but-dynamic "Horehound" and the aggressive "Sea of Cowards." But where the riffs aren't astounding at face value, White's production tricks heard throughout the album succeed in captivating, whether it's the garbled guitar craziness in "Three Dollar Hat," the modulating oscillation effects in "Buzzkill(er)" and "Too Bad," or the right-output delay (which calls back to "Horehound") heard in the opening drums of "Lose the Right" and the guitar riff in "Cop and Go."
Another big change in "Dodge and Burn" is how much White's presence has expanded. Working hand in hand with the guitar/bass focus being toned down from "Sea of Cowards," White's drumming activity gets more room to shine - from the jazz-inspired breakbeats found in "Three Dollar Hat," "Rough Detective" and "Too Bad," to the increased amount of drum fills heard throughout the album, White takes his rhythm-centric support role and turns it into a scene-stealing one. White also opts for more vocal roles this time around, trading lines with Mossheart in "Rough Detective" and being the lead vocalist in "Three Dollar Hat," with his narrative rap rock vocals emulating the likes of Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere."
Lyrics — 8
With several songs in "Horehound" portraying Mossheart as a fictitious roughneck renegade, the final line of "So Far From Your Weapon" ("He who hits the road's the one who lives") ends up being a retroactive prequel to the big theme of "Dodge and Burn," which is of the character's constant state of being on the run. Symbolism of the lonesome highway in "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)" represents her cold feelings towards love and settling down, and symbolism of her speeding alone on the interstate in "Buzzkill(er)" articulates her self-centered, live-fast mentality superseding that of conventional, religious-fueled morality ("Oh, Lord, I will not follow you / I'm in the lead"). This mentality leads to her committing crimes while on the road - particularly, grand larceny (later alluded to in the line "I count my milk and honey / Lost track of all the money" in "Mile Markers"), which she lets an accomplice take the fall for (in "Three Dollar Hat"), and even though she's taken in for questioning by the police for this crime (in "Rough Detective"), she successfully dupes their suspicions, even making a mockery of the detective's initiative ("The apprentice is the master and the cop's the clown / You hear me laughing in the background").
But with the foreshadowing "Open Up" showing the main character's split feelings between denial and acknowledgement of how this life will shake out ("My hand is faster than the pen but the end has been written down / Still the ink will not dry, undermined by a hope that I'm wrong"), the main character's drive dwindles in light of regret and knowledge of the inevitable in "Too Bad" ("I know how the story ends / I know who dies, I know who lives / I know both passing ships / And how it feels to really miss"). Even still, the ending ballad of "Impossible Winner" is an undoubtedly positive swan song - with the main character detailing her lonesome but free spirit ("I'm a white noise song / Thorn upon a thorn / A wind that whips around / No part of any storm") as well as her resilient nature in the wake of defeat ("Drag my body through the sand / Drag my body down the road / Drag me off to the end / Turn around, here I am"), she still appreciates the free-wheeling path she took, taking solace in the idea that the journey is worth more than the destination (no matter how terminal).
Overall Impression — 8
With the timing of "Dodge and Burn" indicating that White wanted to get back in the saddle with The Dead Weather in the midst of his recent solo responsibilities, it's quite the compliment for The Dead Weather. But more than just being a desire for White to get back in the drummer's seat to show off, "Dodge and Burn" proves to be a well thought out album, with its elaborate narrative lyrics especially pushing the album above The Dead Weather's previous albums in terms of substantiality. Even if the fact still remains that a supergroup like this is only able to function on occasion, "Dodge and Burn" proves that those occasions are indeed worthwhile.