One of the crucial aspects of the Dead Weather’s initial success was how the supergroup just seemed to pop out of nowhere. As the story goes, the quartet was formed six years ago following an impromptu blooze rock jam at the Third Man Studios in Nashville, which led to the act writing and recording their debut album over a couple of weeks. Comprising Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart, Jack White on drums, his Raconteurs buddy Jack Lawrence on bass, and guitarist Dean Ferita, they dropped Horehound in the summer of 2009, and quickly followed it up a year later with sophomore set Sea of Cowards.
Considering the pedigree of the four-piece–in particular skinsman White, with his ever-shifting solo career and eccentric entrepreneurial activities–you could forgive the five-year wait time for Dodge and Burn. That said, fans of the Dead Weather’s shag carpet-lined Zep-stomps were treated to a handful of tracks via 7-inch releases in 2013 and 2014, respectively. They reappear here, along with eight brand new numbers.
So is Dodge and Burn worth the wait? Well, opening number “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” starts things off right proper with a whole lotta riff rawk. White delivers a cannon-fire backbeat beneath Fertita’s filthy, fuzzed up bends, while Mosshart offers up a series of steadfast howls detailing the on-again-off-again thump of her heart. It’s a vicious and wicked entry point.
Previously issued single “Buzzkill(er)” is likewise a straight-up, well, killer. Mixing mean-mugging attitude with a sensual swagger, the song hits big via the out-there effects work applied to Fertita’s leads, as well as a nasty-ass chorus melody.
But while the album starts off strong with some fundamentals, the band reveal they’ve got a few more tricks up their sleeves with Dodge and Burn. And they aren’t all good.
Ever sit at home and wonder to yourself what it would sound like if a highly-caffeinated Isaac Brock started rapping over a Z-grade Korn groove? No? Well, the good news is you’re still completely sane. Bad news is, that sonic nightmare seems as apt a run-down as any for Dodge and Burn’s biggest head-scratcher, “Three Dollar Hat.” There, a bizarrely metallic snare shuffle and Lawrence’s creepy-crawl low-end support White’s off-the-rails spitting style about the bad man named Jackie Lee, who’s “shooting everybody down with a .33”
A mid-song salvo reroutes the Dead Weather toward Motor City rawk, and finds Mosshart singing “I’m so much better than that.” That cry lands like a bitter punchline, as the band soon get back to the rap-rock weirdness.
The record thankfully only gets better from there, but there are still a few dead spots on Dead Weather’s third LP. Heavy on FM dial organs and open chords, “Lose the Right” is rock festival filler, while the verse in “Be Still” likewise plays the Deep Purple card to questionable effect.
“Rough Detective” fares better with its slippery guitar slides and White and Mosshart’s back-and-forth dolphin cries. “Cop and Go” is a hard-edged crusher about getting your hand caught in the cookie jar, but the track should be applauded, not punished.
While “Three Dollar Hat” was an audio experiment gone horribly wrong, closing cut “Impossible Winner” splendidly brings the band into more tender territory. Though echo-laden piano and sophisticated symphony strings replace the octave pedal zaniness of Fertita’s six-string, Mosshart’s self-assured vocals remain. Reflective, she sings: “I’m no beginner/I’ll be here every night, my name up in lights: the Impossible Winner.” It’s a sentimental fade-out that’s built for us to beg for an encore, but who knows how quickly the Dead Weather will make their return the next time around.