Jack White is one of the most ambitious, non-ambitious musicians the industry has ever encountered. By that, I mean to say that, although his music is, more often than not, stripped down to the bare essentials, he seems to seek to achieve several diverse goals with that sound. Since spear-heading the garage rock revival in the early 2000’s, Jack White has been bouncing from album-to-album, band-to-band trying to stretch gritty, bluesy, guitar rock further than it has ever been stretched before. His newest project is The Dead Weather and their debut album, Horehound (brought to you by Jack White’s own record label, Third Man), may be White’s best non-White Stripes release yet.

Horehound packs more punch into its minimal instrumentation than any triple-guitar, double-bass, guttural scream attack of any generic metalcore band out today. Anyone can play loud but it takes a group of great musicians to play with a full, developed sound. Jack White has assembled just that with Alison Mosshart (of the Kills), Dead Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age), and Jack Lawrence (a fellow Raconteur) rounding out the near-supergroup lineup.

The varied membership lends to the sound as the album successfully avoids becoming repetitive, a flaw that swallows up many garage rock records. Of course, Jack White’s trademark deep guitar grooves are present throughout the album (“Rocking Horse”) however, the other band who are represented in this project let their influences shine through as well, often creating impressive results, like on “3 Birds” where White’s aforementioned guitar groves are mixed with psychedelic instrumentation that would be more at home on a Queens of the Stone Age album. “60 Feet Tall”, the album’s opener, puts a blues spin on The Kills’ sound. Then again, there are parts of the album that do not really sound much like any of the member’s main projects. “Hang You From The Heavens” was probably chosen as the album’s single for just that reason, with a sound somewhere between pseudo-sophisticated blues rock and indie rock.

At times, the influences do not mix quite as well. “Bone House”, for instance, seems too much like an overly-deliberate mixture of sounds, coming off as muddled as the two guitars play, what seem to be, too different riffs. “No Hassle Night”, although having a promising opening, quickly falls victim to an overused chord structure, a no-surprises melody, and an overall vibe of laziness. Still, what else is to be expected from garage rock? Every album in the genre has to have that one stinker (with the exception of 2001’s brilliant White Blood Cells from the White Stripes).

There is not really much more you can ask for from an album like this. It pushes the boundaries of its sound without breaking character and offers pleasing results the vast majority of the time. Although not a perfect record, Horehound will certainly please fans of the member’s primary bands, as well as win a following of its own.

Released: July 14th, 2009
Overall score: 7.1/10

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