The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Third Man: 2010
Purchase on Amazon
So there you are, sitting on a porch somewhere in Tennessee. You look over to see a beautiful sunset occurring as you take a sip from what tastes like the best mint julep you have ever had. Glancing down, you’re apparently sporting a fine white suit. It’s your Sunday best, perhaps. And you’re listening to the blues, which are blasting from your crackling stereo. All of a sudden, walking from the woods you notice a troupe of black clothes-wearing, long hair-having rockers carrying buckets. The two in front, a pale-faced man and woman, bring their buckets back and throw grimy mud all over you. Your outfit is presumably ruined. But your stereo, it’s playing this gritty, distorted version of the blues. You look up and realize the Dead Weather is standing there, about to rip into their killer sophomore album, Sea of Cowards.
Much like this foursome’s first project, Horehound, their second album is an extension of sounds we have heard from those involved in the super-group. Jack White, who mostly sits back on the drum kit, delivers his cock-of-the-walk lyrics and vocals here and there. Alison Mosshart is still just as sassy, if not sassier, as on her albums with the Kills. Jack Lawrence’s bass is covered in deep layers of scuzz and muck while Dean Fertita, perhaps the most crucial element of this group, is back with his distorted synthesizers and organs.
All four members worked together in crafting a majority of this record, rather than delegating songwriting duties to White or Mosshart. And it makes for a distinctly cohesive – beyond cohesive, really – album that plays like they just played for 35 minutes straight, liked what they heard, and sent the record in to the label. Rather than hear dead space between tracks, each bleeds into the next to create essentially one long song. For someone who appreciates the true definition of an album, which is a solid piece of music and not a collection of loose tracks, Sea of Cowards will make you squeal with glee. As for those of you who prefer big singles and the more modern definition of a record, shut up and allow the rhythms on here to smack some sense into you.
The album gets off to a gigantic start with the White-led “Blue Blood Blues”, an exercise in heavy riffs, warbled synths, and bad-ass lyrics. He struts through his verses with his trademark attitude before delivering some of the best rock lines heard in years: “Check your lips at the door, woman/Shake your hips like battleships/Yeah all the white girls trip when I, sing at Sunday service.” And before you know it, you’re listening to “Hustle and Cuss”. Musically, it almost sounds like a blues-punk romp being thrown down in a church. And Mosshart, armed with smoky vocals, sings like she’s going to kick you in the teeth. She somehow amps up the intensity for “The Difference Between Us”, one of the album’s best thanks in part to Fertita’s wild organs, synths, and guitar riffs all creating a wild wall of noise. Elsewhere, “I Can’t Hear You” is a classic rock-inspired treat with Mosshart walking across bluesy guitars while “Jawbreaker” feels like it was made to make you stomp your foot and bang your head along.
When it comes down to it, there really is little reason to knock the Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards. It’s a rough, rugged and raw trip down south guided by some of rock’s finest musicians doing it right now. Seriously, is Jack White capable of doing anything wrong at this point? That goes for the others involved here, too, as they are just as much to blame for this fantastic record. Sure, some might complain that the tracks “bleed” into one another and, to be fair, that might annoy you depending on your mood. But the cuts on here are the kind of stuff made to frighten old folks and inspire kids to pick up guitars and drum sticks. Grow a pair, grab a beer and enjoy.
4 out of 5