Dodge and Burn, The Dead Weather
Following a five-year dry span, the Tennessee-based rock supergroup the Dead Weather released its third LP last month. Anyone who thought that the band’s previous releases thoroughly explored its musical versatility will quickly be proven wrong by a quick run-through of this 42-minute experimental alt-rock masterpiece. In addition to exhibiting the group’s strong blues-rock underpinnings, Dodge and Burn pushes the Dead Weather’s original style to both new and familiar extremes.
Since its 2009 debut work, the Dead Weather has solidified itself in the spectacle of the heavy alternative rock scene of the 2010s as one of the genre’s most talented, innovative and multi-faceted bands. Eclectic by nature, the quartet consists of diverse musicians previously immersed in other groups or in solo work, who came together by chance in 2008. After several highly successful jam sessions, Jack White, Dean Fertita, Alison Mosshart and Jack Lawrence decided to coalesce as a band, quickly getting down to business. From 2009 to 2010, the band produced two ground-breaking albums – Horehound and Sea of Cowards – both characterized by an earsplitting garage sound. Although generally underrated, these works defined a band that could seemingly head any direction despite common sonic themes of distorted, treble-heavy guitar and bass riffs, harmonic vocal sections featuring lots of shrieking, assertive drumming and lugubrious lyrics. Regardless of its novelty and time gap between the previous works, Dodge and Burn does the best job of portraying the diverse talents and inter-genre capabilities of the band.
Right from the get-go, listeners are baited by Mosshart and Fertita’s high energy rapport of wailing and vibrato-heavy guitar riffs in “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles).” First released for public rocking-out in August, this is the album’s third single and a central feature of the larger work. Changing tempo at several points throughout its development, this song strongly highlights the all-out, distorted sound of the Dead Weather and is the album’s most forceful number.
Next up, “Buzzkill(er)” and “Let Me Through” thematically continue much of the first track’s essential nature, but add some of their own distinctive features. Noisy, fuzzbox-generated guitar and bass lines converge in the solo sections of “Let Me Through” to create a sound that, quite frankly, is akin to crashing or exploding metal.
Moving on to the fourth number, “Three Dollar Hat,” we see a different side of the band perhaps only foreshadowed by several of the less in-your-face tracks on Horehound. White recounts the story of psychopathic killer Jackie Lee in the slow but eerie first half. Then, the music suddenly shifts and intensifies as Mosshart takes over narrating Lee’s inflamed mindset. Mosshart’s echoing voice screams Lee’s burning thoughts: “I’m so much better than that three dollar hat!” A return to White’s vocals and the slow-burning groove of the initial section finalizes the track, which is arguably the most edgy feature of Dodge and Burn.
Many of the album’s remaining tracks continue to emphasize the classic blues and garage rock that brought fame to the Dead Weather. “Rough Detective,” “Cop and Go” and the first single “Open Up” are all standout tracks. At times, the content might feel disjointed and fuzzy to the unacquainted ear, but this is actually a defining trait of a band that was largely influenced by the early-2000s post-punk revival. White’s former two-person band, The White Stripes, was a key international figure of the genre. His other well-recognized supergroup, The Raconteurs, which also features Lawrence on bass but is currently on hiatus, was also a clear frontrunner in this movement. These iterations of post-punk revival have had a clear influence on the murky, distorted aspects of Dodge and Burn, as well as the general tendencies of its authors.
These stylistic qualities of the album can also be explained by a carefree style of playing and recording. Mosshart wonderfully outlined this approach in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly: “As per usual with the Dead Weather, [Dodge and Burn] was written and recorded at the same time … It’s really just a human, organic explosion.” This speaks to the band members’ aggregate talent and synergy. One can imagine the musicians jamming together after months or years of separation and quickly coming up with these electric tracks as they effortlessly click with one another.
To finish off the album, listeners are treated to another highly original track, something that has stylistically never been explored by the Dead Weather, at least in studio. “Impossible Winner” is slower and more upbeat than any of the band’s previous work. The departure from its normal style to a song that relies heavily on warm string and piano sections is novel, but in no way detracts from the album’s force. Rather, it is like a symbolic question mark prompting listeners to wonder: Where will the band go from here? And this is how I will conclude, by pondering what on Earth this shameless troupe of furious rockers will explore next.
Only time will tell.