Sound — 8
Last year saw a resurgence of a word, with it being applied to new bands more than ever before. This word was supergroup' and two in particular seemed to be plastered with such a title at every turn. Arguably the more deserving of the pair was Them Crooked Vultures; any modern rock aficionado's wet dream made very loud reality. Beating Homme and co to the punch however, was Jack White's new project The Dead Weather with their debut record Horehound. The product of a very natural coming together of familiar faces (all band members have performed on stage as part of White's other supergroup, The Raconteurs yes, even Alison Mosshart), the album began as an impromptu jam that ended up lasting three weeks. And predictably, the finished result was really quite good. Of course, not everyone thought so and these same people will be hard-pressed to enjoy the band's follow-up, Sea of Cowards. This second album is very much in the same vein as its predecessor, with White again proving himself to be an ample anchor for the rest of the band's talents. A new found sense of familiarity permeates throughout, most noticeably in regards to Dean Fertita, whose minimalist guitar style and fondness of synths no longer seems out of place alongside White's rattling drums threadbare production. This frequently gives the impression of musical worlds colliding...gently, with the positively fun Jawbreaker and the otherworldly The Difference Between Us being particularly strong results; it's raw, but not as we know it. With so many pieces looking for a place, it's almost inevitable that some aspect of the band would fall by the wayside and on Sea of Cowards it's Jack Lawrence. His contribution as bassist is closer to the reliable old Jack from The Raconteurs instead of the considerable presence found on the last record. That's not to say he's entirely absent, I Can't Hear You demonstrates what a good fuzzy bassline can do for a song, and that a healthy balance isn't beyond the band.
Lyrics — 8
Now despite enjoying The Kills for a few years now, Alison Mosshart's voice has never really impressed me, The Dead Weather's first included (the snarl verse/shout chorus thing has been perfected by many a female vocalist). Now nothing's radically different about her efforts here, but when allowed to go it alone, she's one of the album's strengths. More expressive than ever, Mosshart's multi-tracked howl brings venom to the vehicular themed Gasoline (take the boy out of Detroit...); a song possessing the most memorable lyrics of the entire album - So cool your engines for me, I don't want a sweetheart, I want a machine. Jack White again contributes vocals, though his solo flights don't quite match those of Mosshart's, or their duets for that matter (of which the lolloping I'm Mad is the most successful).
Overall Impression — 8
Despite what feel like attempts at experimentation, restraint is most certainly the name of the game. None of the eleven tracks trouble the four minute mark, bringing the length of the album to a lean thirty-five minutes in all. For the most part, this means no offerings are with the listener long enough to outstay their welcome, even if a few do still seem to have some life left in them. This punk ethos can't cover up the few faults the album has. As is to be expected from such a quickly produced second record, familiarity abounds, though the same excuse doesn't explain how a couple of tracks (No Horse and, to some extent, Blue Blood Blues) barely have enough ideas to sustain their short length. Not that this is a weak album in the slightest. Even at its most passive, Sea of Cowards is a great listen. It's the unrefined garage rock White's used to forced to traverse new and unsettling paths and the result is like little else. This project can go further, but there's still that little niggle, a voice asking why the drummer isn't holding a guitar in his real band.