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Friday, September 04, 2009

Horehound

I haven't thought this through, but my favorite young rock musician (young meaning younger than me, which could still be pretty fucking old) is Jack White. He seems to be one of those musicians who has an exhaustive knowledge of what came before, but instead of reproducing it, he's innovating all the time. I don't have all of his output--I think there's a White Stripes album I don't have, and I also don't have either of The Raconteurs discs, but I recently purchased the album Horehound by his latest group, The Dead Weather, and I love it.

The group consists of White, vocalist Allison Mosshart of The Kills, guitarist Dean Ferlita of Queens of the Stone Age and bassist Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs. White is the drummer, and he's quite accomplished (interesting that Meg White, who pounds the skins for White Stripes, is considered by some to be a terrible drummer). Horehound is a mixture of styles, but I think can most accurately be summed up as roots rock with a layer of the macabre, bearing influences as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Charles Gounod.

All of the songs, either by lyric or sound, have a sense of the sinister, which would make this a great record to play on Halloween. Some of the lyrics may make you out and out uncomfortable, such as from "Hang You to the Heavens": "I like to grab you by the hair, and lead you to the devil." Satanism and misogyny? And this song was written by the girl in the group. Or consider "I Cut Like a Buffalo": "You can hit me if you want to, do whatever makes you happy." This song is the only one written solely by White.

I didn't find a clunker on the record. I bought it just after seeing Taking Woodstock, and when I put in the car CD player it sounded appropriate, as the opening track, "60 Feet Tall," is acid rock, with Ferlita doing a pretty good Hendrix. "Treat Me Like Your Mother" has punk overtones, as does "Rocking Horse," with Mosshart sounding like Siouxsie Sioux, and Ferlita's guitar reverbing like Dick Dale's. Their cover version of Dylan's "New Pony" also fits right in, as that pony's name is Lucifer.

Then there's "No Hassle Night," which the producers of True Blood should snap up for their show: "I'm looking for a place to go/where the sun goes down/and stays down." The closing track, a long bluesy number called "Will There Be Enough Water," asks a very good question: "Will there be enough water/when my ship comes in?/And when I set sail/Will there be enough wind?"

My favorite two tracks are an instrumental, "3 Birds," that has the kind of jaunty spookiness that Gounod's Funeral March for Marionettes had (it was the theme of Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and makes me think of Poe--are the birds ravens by any chance--and "So Far From Your Weapon," a bruising thumper of a song that calls to mind all the dark places of the human pysche. This is a fine record, best played on a full moon, in the dark, with perhaps a single candle burning.

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