The Dead Weather’s ‘Dodge and Burn’ radiates raw intensity

Jack White and Alison Mosshart, joined forces in 2009 to form The Dead Weather. kata rokkar via Flickr Creative Commons

Jack White is like the music world’s Casanova. From the White Stripes to The Raconteurs to his “Lazeretto” days, the man can’t seem to pick a band to commit to, yet he passionately sees through every musical endeavor he takes on. A steady figure in the industry since the ’90s, White has collaborated with such prolific musicians as Bob Dylan and Loretta Lynn. But the most intense of his collaborations may well be rock supergroup, The Dead Weather.

The band, formed in 2009, consists of White, Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes and The Raconteurs). With more bite than any of White’s other projects, The Dead Weather’s cutting garage rock is at once clever and angsty.

The band’s latest effort, “Dodge and Burn,” released Sept. 25, is powerful from start to finish. Mosshart and White trade off on lead vocal duties, with Mosshart doing the heavy lifting. Snarling guitar riffs and driving rhythms fatten up the sound. The characteristic Jack White blues edge is very present in the music, but what sets The Dead Weather apart from other garage rock outfits are the diverse musical influences contributed by the other bandmates. Mosshart’s love for Sonic Youth is evident in the noisy guitars and background effects. Likewise, Fertita’s days in Queens of the Stone Age have clearly inspired the trippy desert-rock heaviness that characterizes some songs.

“Dodge and Burn” is an all-around strong album, but there are some songs that stand out on this already fantastic album. “Buzzkill(er)” starts off with simple power chords that ooze with attitude, heightened by the slick fret noise made from sliding around up the neck of the guitar. The pre-verse riff is somewhat reminiscent of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” (1978), but is set in a very different context and with alternate instrumentation to build interest. Two guitars, panned hard during the verses, highlight the ever-so-slight variations in the riffs they play. The odd key change into the chorus creates a jarring, yet catchy transition between parts that is at times set off by a dramatic pause. Abrupt in its ending, the song is short but sharp.

In “Lose the Right,” the percussive intro leads with energy, later joined by an infectious guitar and organ riff. Like earlier tracks, the song overflows with aggressive attitude that never falters. The sound builds during the chorus as more guitars join the looming three-chord riff. Later on, a caustically toned guitar solo tears it up, followed by an especially fervent verse to close out the track.

“Open Up” starts with Mosshart screaming unabashedly, accompanied by staccato chords and drum hits. What follows is an interestingly subdued section — most of the instruments drop out, leaving just two guitars strumming alone in unison. Subsequent riffs are anxious in tone and are flanked by quieter interludes, over which Mosshart’s coarse vocals soar.

The album closes out with the unusual “Impossible Winner,” which starts out with a lovely piano and string intro. Classic chord changes and baroque pop instrumentation make the track stand in stark contrast with the rest of the album — this is what makes it such a bold and unexpected closer. Despite the considerably less heavy sound, the song doesn’t lose any of the band’s characteristic edge and power.  Dynamic in terms of percussion and musically sophisticated, Mosshart’s composition rounds out the album in just the right way.

While The Dead Weather has not lined up any tour dates to promote the album, listening to “Dodge and Burn” will make listeners wish that the band had. The dynamic and passionate album is yet another Jack White project that far exceeds expectations.


Summary

The dynamic and passionate album is yet another Jack White project that far exceeds expectations.

4.5 stars
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