The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2010-05-10

If you didn't like Jack White and Allison Mosshart's blues rock super-group the first time round, don't bother with Sea of Cowards. Not much has changed on this, their speedily recorded second album. If, however, the monumental riffs and epic blues freak-outs of debut Horehound left you thirsty for more, Sea of Cowards delivers that in abundance.

To be fair to The Dead Weather, things have changed just a little bit. There's a newly discovered funky, almost blaxploitation edge to song's like 'Hustle and Cuss' that suits the band down to the ground. There's also a greater deployment of effects peddles and synths, which lend a subtly futuristic edge to 'The Difference Between Us', 'I'm Mad' (which amply lives up to its name) and first track 'Blue Blood Blues'. Maybe the band's early cover of Gary Numan's 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' was a good indication of things to come?

Album highlight 'Looking at the Invisible Man' features pitch-shifted vocals and an effect very similar to the 'spri-i-i-i-i-ng' sound The Six Million Dollar Man used whenever Steve Austin sprung into action. Oddly, both this and 'Hustle and Cuss' sound like the kind of swampy funk jams The Beastie Boys were fond of laying down circa Check Your Head and Ill Communication.

'Blue Blood Blues' is a terrific opener, firmly reiterating The Dead Weather's mission statement to rock like muthas while adding some squirmy, serpentine guitar and seductive gospel falsetto vocals from Mosshart and White. Meanwhile, Mosshart once more wheels out her sexy witch woman voice on 'Gasoline' and 'I Can't Hear You' to great effect.

Elsewhere, however, things are not so hot. 'Die by the Drop' was a decent single but is actually one of the weaker tracks here. It's so sparse in comparison to other tracks that you find yourself just waiting for it to do something. There's also a little too much filler. A track like 'Jawbreaker' may have been great fun to record but it's a pretty inconsequential listen.

What Sea of Cowards is really lacking is something different to break up the relentless blue rock, in the way that the noir soundtrack feel of '3 Birds' did on Horehound. But this is still a strong set from a group who clearly know exactly who they are and what they're doing. It's also, sporadically, the most experimental record Jack White has put out.

As with all of White's side-projects, it's hard to tell when he'll lose interest and move onto something new or even revive The White Stripes (something The Dead Weather's detractors would no doubt love to see), but on this evidence his current artistic concern has a lot of life left in it.

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