The Dead Weather’s “Sea of Cowards” (2010) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Originally posted 2010-05-17 23:45:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards (2010) – MAYBE SO

By Chris Moore:

Sea of Cowards (2010) by the Dead Weather

Sea of Cowards (2010) by the Dead Weather

(May 11, 2010)

Review:

Tighter and yet even more frenetic than their debut, Sea of Cowards is a fast-paced, distortion-drenched hard rock romp through eleven solid tracks, made all the better for the sharing of vocal duties between Alison Mosshart and Jack White:  this album is the realization — and only a year later! — of what I had been hoping for when I referred to the great potential expressed in Horehound (2009).

Top Two Tracks:

“Gasoline” & “Blue Blood Blues”

The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER THREE is Jack White

Originally posted 2010-04-13 14:34:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the third in a five part series dedicated to the top five rock artists of the decade, 2000-2009.  The criteria used to determine this list were: (1) Quality of Music, (2) Quantity of Released Material, (3) Diversity of Media, and (4) Roles of Artists/Band Members.  Look for new posts coming soon!

By Chris Moore:

Easily one of the busiest figures in contemporary rock music, Jack White has made it his business to write, record, perform, and produce music every chance he gets.  There is something breathtaking about the apparent ease with which he has transcended genre lines and brought the influences back to his own music.  It is equally impressive to consider how many directions he has been pulled in during this decade, and yet how strong his contributions have been to each of his numerous ventures.

I, for one, wasn’t sure what to make of this straggly-haired ax-grinder when I first heard of him in the wake of the White Stripes’ breakthrough effort Elephant in 2003.  I’ll never forget tuning in (on the advice of a friend) to Late Night with Conan O’Brien during their week-long tenure promoting this aforementioned album.  “Seven Nation Army” may have been overplayed for some, but I loved its gritty, riffy simplicity, punctuated by White’s lead vocals and Meg White’s wonderfully boneheaded drumming.

With each new White Stripes album I’ve heard, I’ve realized more and more the degree to which Jack and Meg — particularly Jack — are experts at finding their comfort zones, then burning them down.  In the Raconteurs, he contributes a very big, very characteristic guitar sound, somehow crafting a new landscape without plagiarizing his White Stripes sound.  And the Dead Weather, his second side project, is something else all together, a sound that White pulls together with his drumming rather than his guitar work.

Taking these three bands into consideration, then throwing in his solo work and other one-off collaborations for good measure, there is simply no way to avoid giving Jack White a respectful — if not awe-filled — nod for his exemplary contemporary rock music created this decade.

BLACK & WHITE & RED ALL OVER

Any music promoter will tell you that it’s not simply the sound of a band that is important, but also their image and general appearance.  Jack and Meg White have excelled with this other half of the equation, always dressing in red, white, and black, as well as seeing to it that their album artwork follows suit.  Their music may draw comparisons to acts of the past like Led Zeppelin, but this is no retro act.  In their continually developing sound, and equally in the way they dress and act, the White Stripes are one of the most interesting bands of the decade.

How to go about describing such a band in a few paragraphs?

I’ll start with words like quirky, bold, frenetic, complex, basic, and that’s just to begin with.  Since 2000’s De Stijl, the White Stripes have released four more albums:  2001’s very promising White Blood Cells, their major label debut Elephant in 2001 (a.k.a. their personal catapult into the pop culture lexicon), 2005’s piano-driven masterpiece Get Behind Me Satan, and most recently, a return to distortion drenched guitar in the riff-laden reveries of 2007’s Icky Thump.  By the time they released their first live CD, Under Great White Northern Lights (2010), the White Stripes had developed quite a catalog to draw from.

That they are able to achieve their sound with just two band members is intriguing.  Granted, Meg White suffered a breakdown that resulted in the cancellation of some tour dates in 2007, but there have been confirmed reports since last year that they are already at work on their seventh album.

A SIDE PROJECT, A SIDE PROJECT FROM THE SIDE PROJECT, AND MORE!

Jack White’s work in the White Stripes is substantial enough to be considered notable, but it is his wide variety of ventures outside the scope of his primary band that cinch his position at the upper part of the contemporary rock music ladder.  His five contributions to the Cold Mountain soundtrack in 2003 suggested that he had more to give than could be satisfied in one band alone.  He has since gone on to produce and play on a laundry list of other albums, including Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose.  More recently, he wrote and recorded an outstanding duet with Alicia Keys for the James Bond film Another Way to Die, the first duet in the Bond series.

With all the writing, performing, and recording White has done since the early nineties, it is interesting to note that his first official “solo” work was released in 2009 — the single “Fly Farm Blues.”

In addition to these one-off efforts, White has joined not one but two side projects.  The first, the Raconteurs, formed in 2005 along with power pop rocker Brendan Benson (sharing guitar duty), bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer Patrick Keeler.  After their 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers, they followed up quickly with the phenomenal Consolers of the Lonely in 2008.  The latter is easily one of the best rock music albums of the decade, and it is an outrage that I passed over it for my Top 50 Albums of the 2000s list.  This is the Jack White music that I am perhaps most drawn to: tight, fully-produced, riff-driven songs with an abundance of crunchy guitars, a rockin’ rhythm section, and catchy leads.

As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, White co-founded the Dead Weather in 2009 with the Kills’ lead singer Alison Mosshart, guitarist Dean Fertita, and Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence.  This is an altogether different venture that features a grungier tone than the Raconteurs or even the White Stripes.  The songs are a bit longer, and could be described as a set of almost-jams.  After I heard their interpretations of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony,” a so-so deep track from 1978’s Street Legal, I was hooked.

In summary, this decade has seen Jack White bring the White Stripes to worldwide rock music fame, form not one but two side groups, release his first single as a solo artist, and contribute to a myriad of other artists’ albums and soundtracks.  At the time of this writing (early 2010), there is a May 11th release date set for the follow-up Dead Weather album, confirmations from White that the White Stripes will be releasing an album in the near future, and whispers of an all-out solo record from the man himself.

Hands down, Jack White is my pick for the number three rock music artist of the 2000s for all the right reasons: the sheer quantity of music produced, his development of a signature guitar sound, and his collaborations with other artists (Dylan, Beck, and more in addition to those mentioned above).  It’s a no-brainer, my friends.

“New Pony” (Bob Dylan / Dead Weather Cover)

Originally posted 2009-07-21 00:42:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Bob Dylan / Dead Weather chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to yet another delay for the “double header” I promised last week or (technically) two weeks ago.  But I have a good reason for holding off!  Tonight, I’ve recorded “New Pony,” one of my least favorite Bob Dylan songs, because a brand new cover version was released on last week’s Dead Weather debut album.

First, I’ll give a little background on the original version of the song.  “New Pony” was first released on Bob Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal.  To give you a little context here, Dylan had recently released Blood on the Tracks and Desire, arguably two of his best albums.  The year 1975 found him fully engaged in the Rolling Thunder Revue along with such artists as Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, poet Allen Ginsberg, and others.  Although he temporarily revived a different incarnation of the Revue in 1976, this phase of Dylan’s musical career was pretty much over by 1977.

This is not to say that life wasn’t busy for him.  This was right around the time that his marriage to Sara Dylan was breaking down and the divorce proceedings began.  A lot — perhaps too much — has been written about these personal aspects. 

Street Legal was the product of a few weeks of sessions involving a select group of musicians that Dylan had recently worked with.  Although his past two albums had met with critical success and his subsequent album, 1979’s Slow Train Coming, would earn him his first Grammy award, Street Legal has generally been lost in the valley between these two peaks.

Personally, I have always liked this album.  Sure, the female background singers come across as a bit cheesy at times (have you heard “Baby, Stop Crying”?) and the instrumentation can be a bit much at times, but there are some great songs.  “Changing of the Guards” is one of my favorite album openers and boasts a rare fade-in.  “Is Your Love in Vain?” and “True Love Tends to Forget” are fantastic Dylan deep cuts.  And “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is a narrative wrapped in the best, darkest mood you’ve ever felt.  (Jerry Garcia recorded a great version of the latter.)

As for “New Pony”?  Well, it generally ranks as one of my least favorite Dylan recordings of all time, and certainly on this record.  In fact, it’s the very rare track that I may occasionally skip when listening to the album.  Why it was placed in the number 2 slot, I’ll never know.

That being said, let’s flash forward to 2009.  Last week, the Dead Weather released their debut album, Horehound.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this group, this is a side project band composed of the White Stripes’ Jack White (drums, some vocals, acoustic guitar on one track), the Kills’ Alison Mosshart (lead vocals), Queens of the Stone Age’s Dead Fertita (guitar, etc.), and Jack Lawrence (bass, etc.).  I really liked last year’s Raconteurs album (Jack White and Jack Lawrence’s other side project band), so I figured I would give this one a shot as well.

Long review short, I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be.  (My one-sentence review is coming shortly!)  That being said, the album certainly has its moments, and for me, one of the best moments is track seven when they cover Dylan’s “New Pony.”

This is an excellent example of a band you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being heavily influenced by Bob Dylan turning around and pulling off a stand-up interpretation of one of his songs.  After hearing it, I thought that this song fit better on this album than it did on Street Legal.  In that sense, I was happy to assign “New Pony” to a better place in my estimation of Dylan’s catalog of songs.

So, without further ado, I submit to you my acoustic rendition of the song as a send-up to the 1978 Dylan version and a tip of the hat to the brand-new 2009 version by the Dead Weather.  I found that I was psyched to learn this ridiculously easy (at least chord-wise) song.  Anyone who visits the Laptop Sessions on any regular basis knows that I’m no stranger to a Bob Dylan cover song, but I never thought I’d be recording this one.

Well, at least not until I ran out of all the other ones in 2045 or so…

I hope you enjoy this, and be sure to stop back tomorrow for Jim Fusco’s Tuesday post, a couple days later for Jeff Copperthite’s Thumpin’ Thursday, and later this week for at least one more post from your truly.  (I’ve got so much to say about other music and non-music related topics, but I think this is quite enough for one post!)

See you next session!

The Weekend Review: April 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-11-18 08:24:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

A Wasteland Companion (M. Ward)

Producer: M. Ward

Released: April 6, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Get Ideas” & “Primitive Girl”

 

The “Him” half of nostalgia-rock act She & Him is the more veteran act of the two, and it shows on his most recent release.  A Wasteland Companion is unassuming at most times, but tends to manage that fine balance between simple and boring, leaning ever more towards “chill.”  The Zooey Deschanel – the “She” in She & Him – duet “Sweetheart” doesn’t leap out as much as you might expect it to, but I suppose what can you expect from a one-off non-She & Him album track?  As per usual, a little reverb goes a long way to making M. Ward’s vocals pop in all the right ways for his instrumental sound.  At times, he draws outside the box, as in the distortion on his electric guitar in the standout “I Get Ideas.”  Across the album, the acoustic guitar sparkles and the lyrics propel the sounds, working them into a cohesive yet artistic whole.  Most tracks fly by, many at under three minutes, but this helps to keep up the pace of the album.  When Ward drops the at-times-distracting ambient sounds and focuses on his songs for the words and music as directly as possible, the result is fantastic; and, thankfully, there are enough of those moments represented across this album.

 

 

 

What Kind of World (Brendan Benson)

Producer: Brendan Benson

Released: April 21, 2012

Rating:  2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Bad for Me” & “The Light of Day”

 

It’s not so much that What Kind of World is bad so much as it is underwhelming.  Early on, the album suffers from songwriting that can’t sustain the length of the tracks (and the songs aren’t that long).  Later, as the tracks are shorter, they are not as well-constructed as it has already been established a Brendan Benson song can be.  Most of the time, the songs seem more interested in being recorded versions of what must have been fun to play in the studio and would even be fun to play out live, but the overall constructions don’t stand up.  To be certain, there are moments of transcendence, but these are lost in the slow drag that is the larger trend of the album.  Those interested in more of the brilliance hinted at here should revisit 2009’s My Old, Familiar Friend, one of the great works of that year.

 

 

 

Blunderbuss (Jack White)

Producer: Jack White

Released: April 23, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Freedom at 21” & “Love Interruption”

 

There is probably no album that Jack White could have released for his solo debut that would have fully made good on all the considerable expectations that have been building now for years.  With his talents and various influences spread throughout longer works of collaboration over the years – most recently, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, not to mention more subtle appearances as producer/player with artists like Wanda Jackson – there has always been a diverse range of moments where White’s influence has made itself recognizable.  Here, it is Jack White all the time, and the songs do – understandably, as on any album – fall into patterns and larger trends which are, at first, unusual for White’s work.  This all being said, given the opportunity, Blunderbuss is the deep, dark, quirky work that we expect and desire from White; tracks like the standout “Freedom at 21” and “Love Interruption,” back to back on the album, show off two sonic extremes that White has mastered.  The following song, the title track, takes it down a notch further even.  All in all, for me at least, this album suffered from the evil of high expectations.  It’s taken me the better part of the year to come back to the album again after the initial listening party that was the week after its release; what I’ve found is an excellent collection of well-written lyrics and overall eclectic songwriting: a strong album that is suggestive of the great work that is still to come from Jack White in the years to come.

 

 

 

Little Broken Hearts (Norah Jones)

Producer: Danger Mouse

Released: April 25, 2012

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Good Morning” & “4 Broken Hearts”

 

In the past, I haven’t followed the music or the career of Norah Jones all that closely.  When I learned that Danger Mouse would be producing the new album, I was intrigued.  The resulting album Little Broken Hearts is predictably subversive: slow and elusive at times but always with a strong, quirky sense of rhythm.  Of course, Norah Jones’ vocals – as they did in her appearance on the Danger Mouse-produced Rome – are a beautifully layered coat of paint applied to the dry bones of the instrumentation.  Some tracks stand apart from the rest, perhaps most notably in the opener “Good Morning.”  Much of the album requires patience, which is perhaps a way of admitting it lacks drive at times, or at best that it is artistically rendered in such a way as to make easy listening, quick enjoyment difficult.