Sound — 9
Last year we saw the fruits of yet another Jack White project come into shape as the Dead Weather released their debut album "Horehound". This record was released to well-deserved critical acclaim, and was firmly cemented as one of the best alternative albums of last year. Still, despite the positive feedback for the other members of the band, particularly Allison Mosshart, many critics and fans alike still considered the Dead Weather to be 'just another Jack White project'. With "Sea of Cowards", the Dead Weather just might silence those certain people. In just a year, this band has not only released an album that is better than its predecessor, but also more varied and experimental. Granted, the Dead Weather's debut was by no means generic at all, but this band's songwriting has matured greatly in such a short amount of time that it is hard to believe these musicians have any ounce of brainpower left to write music. From the get-go, the album opener "Blue Blood Blues" lets first-time listeners know what the Dead Weather are all about. This track is also one of the tracks where Jack White is on lead vocal duty. From there, the album twists and turns, offering great buildup tracks such as "The Difference Between Us" and "Gasoline", to mellow tracks such as "Hustle and Cuss" and "I Can't Hear You" (the latter having fantastic lead guitarwork) to the haunting vocals and instrumentation of tracks like "I'm Mad" and "Old Mary", the music never ceases to captivate its listener.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on this album repeat a similar formula used in "Horehound". Allison's haunting, tortured voice conveys many different emotions on this record: "You're a real jawkbreaker: a real crook, obscene. I'd call you a heartbreaker, but I reserve that for nicer things." (Jawbreaker) Though Allison has used her opinions of ex-lovers as a primary basis for her lyrics all along, some lyrical surprises surface on this album that weren't present on the debut record, i.e. implying certain dominating desires in relationships: "You can cry like a baby, just let me do what I need to. It might be to me or to you. Just let me do what I need to." (The Difference Between Us) Mosshart's lyrics, though straightforward and simple, are usually the superior and most relatable of the vocal duo. Naturally, when it's Jack White on vocals the lyrics change to a masculine point of view: "Check your lips at the door woman; shake your hips like battleships, and all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service." (Blue Blood Blues) Jack White's lyrics compliment the music well, but then again, most listeners tend to be pleased with Jack White's singing no matter what he belts out. And while Jack White's vocals are top-notch, his lyrics aren't - at times - particularly thought-provoking, instead choosing to rhythmically deliver lines with his signature voice and vocal stylings rather than make the listener think outside of the box: "You're looking at me like you know what you're talking about. Ain't nothing to see. Wave your hands in the dark woman." (Looking at the Invisible Man) Though White's lyrics tend to be the weakest point in the album, they are not weak enough to significantly hurt it, and will probably carry little to no effect in altering a listener's mind on the consistency and judgement of the album itself. White only sings lead vocals on two tracks, but his vocals are top-notch, and Allison brings her best to all her songs, and these things make up for the random Jack White ramblings that occur.
Overall Impression — 9
In comparing to other artists, all bands Jack White are in are doomed to be compared to The White Stripes and the Raconteurs. That would not be fair for this album, as every single musician performs at their best. Queens of the Stone Age's Dean Fertita brings riffs that could easily be in any one of his main band's songs, and bassist Jack Lawrence is also no slouch. Allison's tormented, cathartic vocals also aid in keeping the music fresh and seductive. Perhaps the main thing that sets this band apart from the others is the tone. The main vibe this band brings to the table that is different from each member's main project is that of darkness. This is a very dark record for what it is. A feeling of dread, carried through synth-lines, organs, and the basic rock instruments pervades the production of this album, to enticing and exciting effect. Though it sounds creepy written down, the vibe above greatly enhances the quality and meaning of the songs, and makes the album all that more enjoyable. If you haven't heard the Dead Weather, or are a fan of Jack White, or just want to hear blues-inspired, original rock music at its absolute best, do yourself a gigantic favor and listen to "Sea of Cowards". It is truly worth every bit of your time, money and support. Notable tracks: "Blue Blood Blues", "The Difference Between Us", "Die By The Drop", "Gasoline", "Jawbreaker".