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Album review: The Dead Weather, "Sea of Cowards"

By Allison Stewart

One of the more interesting things about "Horehound," the 2009 debut from the ersatz supergroup the Dead Weather, was its introduction of the combustible pairing of White Stripes frontman Jack White and the Kills' Alison Mosshart, White's equally formidable, if less vampiric, musical better half.

"Sea of Cowards," the band's sludgier, yowlier follow-up, showcases the interplay between White and Mosshart to a greater advantage than "Horehound" did. The two sound so similar that their vocals are frequently indistinguishable -- not so much yin and yang as yin and more yin. Assisted by Queens of the Stone Age's multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass, the duo whomp and wail their way through a heavy-hitting, sometimes uneven collection of swampy blues-rock tracks.

(More scattered than it should be, after the jump.)

All of White's projects serve as windows into the ransacked contents of his record collection: "Cowards" indicates an interest in '30s blues recordings, everything Robert Plant ever recorded (with an emphasis on "Houses of the Holy") and the collected works of Royal Trux. The Dead Weather make less cohesive work of these influences than they might, and as a consequence "Cowards" feels more scattered than it should, as if White and Co. hurried to put their ideas down on tape before first making sure all of their ideas were good ones.

For every track like the propulsive, playful "Die by the Drop" (as close as White and Mosshart usually get to an actual duet), there's a clunker like "Old Mary," the mostly spoken-word, old-timey creepfest that closes the disc, or the equally pointless "I'm Mad," three minutes of squeaking guitars and maniacal laughter even Mosshart can't save.

The Dead Weather plays the 9:30 club July 13.

Recommended tracks: "Die by the Drop," "Blue Blood Blues"

By David Malitz  |  May 11, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Jack White, The Dead Weather  
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