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Feature Thu Jul 23 2009
Attitude: whatever your feelings about the music of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Kills and Queens of the Stone Age; their members are covered in it. It is gritty and will not wash off. When holed-up in a room together, the resulting mixture becomes that much more abrasive, that much more piercing, that much grittier. Over three weeks in early-2009, a musical gathering took place in Nashville; what emerged was The Dead Weather. With their still-warm debut album, Horehound, released through Jack White's Third Man Records on July 14, The Dead Weather are set to move through a two-night offering at the Vic Theatre next week. Prior to their arrival, a closer look is in order.
In the latter half of 2008, The Raconteurs and The Kills played a handful of shows together. An almost immediate chemistry began to develop between The Kills vocalist/guitarist Alison Mosshart and The Raconteurs vocalist/guitarist Jack White. White had been suffering throat complications. This led to Mosshart joining the band onstage, in an effort to keep the train moving and the spirit alive. These impassioned moments shared onstage only enhanced their growing chemistry, and the idea that became The Dead Weather was born. Before the string of shows came to an end, White and Mosshart had already begun writing. What eventually evolved into the band's first song was written during an illness-inspired session on The Raconteurs' tour bus.
Originally intended to be a one-off collaboration for a 7" single, The Dead Weather quickly and organically grew into something larger. Less than one year after inception, complete with a multi-faceted lineup: Alison Mosshart on lead-vocals, guitar and percussion; Jack White on drums, vocals and guitar; Jack Lawrence on bass, guitar and drums; and Dean Fertita on guitar, organ, piano and bass; The Dead Weather have surfaced with the album, Horehound, and a tour that's already underway.
On Horehound, The Dead Weather have conjured up an authentic combination of dirty blues, trashy rock and black magic. It is a sound on which moisture settles and dust rises. They have not simply dusted-off something old and tossed it back under the guise of something new. They have, however, unmistakably tapped into something from the past. Channeled and re-imagined through four creatively rampant and innovative minds, The Dead Weather have sparked a unique monster that has only begun to breathe it's timeless breath.
The songs on Horehound have a way of developing naturally and inauspiciously. It's as if they are brought to life in the murky stillness of a darkroom. At it's core, the music carries a sinister essence. It seems to hover overhead like an apparition of sorts: dark and stale. While it's often difficult to imagine a time when the cliché phrase, "devil's music," meant something; The Dead Weather come closer than most to restoring a bit of truth and mystery to that notion.
Befitting their name, The Dead Weather's songs creep in ominously; like storm clouds gathering in the distance. The band is in no particular hurry to divulge any one element of them. Instead, they are moved through you at a pace that struts and staggers. Each and every aspect is worked deep into the listener, creating a fantastic sense of tension. White and Lawrence set the tone with fluctuating rhythms; ranging from smooth-and-steady to loose-and-freeform. Fertita's warm guitar and organ tones culminate into melting, fuzz-heavy layers. Mosshart's heated vocals only add to an already-present deviant sexuality, complementing the richly humid and feral atmosphere. In this way, climaxes are progressively attained, exhausted, then vanquished beneath a hum of crickets; turning the lights off on the album-closing, "Will There Be Enough Water." The dark and dying tone on "Will There Be Enough Water" was set during the aforementioned "illness-inspired session." In the studio, this track evolved through an improvised, late-night recording session. What appears on the album is the final 5 minutes of a recorded 20.
The Dead Weather sow sounds that stand tall and menacing on their own. And while that is enough, they are not unaware of the distance an accompanying visual aesthetic can travel; for lack of a better word: packaging. White's Third Man Records—an innovative, vinyl-only label/store offering up limited-edition pressings, and various other novelties to "Vault" subscribers—is largely based on this principle. In addition to the 7" singles — several of which were recently auctioned off by Rock For Kids for nearly $700 at the Pitchfork Music Festival — and limited-run two-colored LP's, the band's website recently featured a trailer and several 70's exploitation-ish "movie" posters, promoting Horehound's first single, "Treat Me Like Your Mother." The trailer and posters feature a leather-clad Mosshart and White, pacing opposite ways in a washed-out, middle-of-nowhere, semi-automatic suburban duel. The full video (below) premiered along with the album on July 14. Both are things of morbid beauty.
The Dead Weather made their first public appearance on April 14, 2009 at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. Their first North American tour began on June 11, 2009 in Louisville. Their July 14, 2009 performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. was recorded for NPR, and is available to stream in it's entirety. They play two nights next week at the Vic Theatre: Tuesday, July 28 and Wednesday, July 29. Their debut album, Horehound, is available now. Will there be enough water?