Jack White is a really good guitar player. With the White Stripes and the Raconteurs, he has shown off his proficiency in a variety of styles and genres (six years later, the faux-bassline of “Seven Nation Army” is still stuck in a lot of heads). He’s a focus of upcoming documentary It Might Get Loud, in which he joins certified six-string icons Jimmy Page and the Edge in gabbing about the history of the electric guitar.
So it’s perplexing that in the Dead Weather, his current project and the most ubiquitously publicized band of 2009, he’s playing . . . drums? It feels like a novelty for novelty’s sake, like Michael Jordan trying baseball. On Horehound, he has exactly one guitar appearance: album closer “Will There Be Enough Water?” He doesn’t sing much on the record, either, with the bulk of the vocal duties going to Alison Mosshart—front woman of the lo-fi duo the Kills.
The intent behind White taking a back seat, quite literally, is clear: More than any of his other projects, the Dead Weather are a collaborative effort among the entire band (rounded out by guitarist Dean Fertita and Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence). All four members have songwriting credits throughout the album. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the least old-school of White’s three bands. The fast and fuzzy “Treat Me Like Your Mother” sounds downright modern, and “Bone House” incorporates high-pitched guitar tones that sound much closer to Fertita’s other band, Queens of the Stone Age, than anything by the White Stripes or Raconteurs.
There’s still plenty of Jack White influence here. He produced the album, “I Cut Like a Buffalo” would fit right in on Get Behind Me Satan, and there’s a cover of a tune by White’s hero, Bob Dylan (“New Pony”). But by stepping away from the guitar, he allows other talented voices to step up.
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