Jack White takes a break from lead guitar and vocals to play drums on the Dead Weather’s second album, Sea of Cowards. Good. Composed of Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs and the Greenhornes, The Dead Weather—created as a side project to the members’ other bands in 2009—have produced a rebellious, ‘60s psychedelic rock album doused in electronic fury.
In fact, Sea of Cowards explodes with such angry energy almost entirely due to Mosshart’s unrelentingly pissed off singing. She sounds like Janice Joplin on most songs, especially “I’m Mad,” where Mosshart at times croons, screeches or growls, “I’m mad, a hundred ways,” and then laughs tauntingly afterwards—“haha!”. It’s an appropriate title considering her erratic, and especially noteworthy, erotic singing.
On the first single off the album, “Die By the Drop,” Fertita brings in Queens of the Stone Age-type guitar riffs while White and Mosshart take turns screaming fucked up wedding vows: “I’m gonna take you for worse or better, I’m gonna make you for worse or better, to my little grave.” It’s a catchy, weird, tightly arranged song, effectively combining the talents of all the artists involved, not just Jack White’s.
Each song on Sea of Cowards explores varying degrees of anger without ever seeming contrived: Lawrence’s matter-of-fact, staccato bass riff on “I Can’t Hear You” punctuated by Fertita’s rebellious guitar; the organ and Mosshart’s lyrics in “Gasoline”— “To be afraid is a luxury, don’t cool your engines for me, I don’t want a sweet heart, I want a machine!”—recalling the erotic defiance of Jimi Hendrix, Joplin, and the Runaways. On the whole, Sea of Cowards balances all that energy with tight arrangements and thoughtful composition.
The album only falls flat whenever White takes over singing vocals, a testament to Mosshart’s influence and importance to this project.