Quick survey: who wants to hear Chuck Berry shake maracas? Or Tom Morello blow a trombone? How about Eddie Van Halen at the xylophone? Prince on kazoo? Okay, we’d all probably drop a few bucks for that last one, but mostly, great guitarists are best left … how best to say it … PLAYING THE FREAKING GUITAR! Which is why, before revealing a single note, The Dead Weather’s Horehound arrives as one of the most nonsensical releases since, oh, about the time Eddie Murphy released “Party All the Time.”
Look, it’s cool that way back when, Jack White drummed for Detroit cow-punk outfit Goober & The Peas, and we can appreciate that he might yearn to get behind the skins now and again. But an 11-song disc on which he picks up a guitar (acoustic, no less) for one six-minute number doesn’t exactly seem like the most effective use of his talents. We are talking about a guy who rated 17th on Rolling Stone’s all-time guitar-greats list a few years back—too high, sure, but the point was made: Dude can play guitar a little.
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Yet on Horehound, he’s a full-time drummer, who sings some of the time. Joining him in the supergroup of sorts are vocalist Alison Mosshart of The Kills, guitarist Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and bassist Jack Lawrence, one of White’s cohorts in his other non-White Stripes project, The Raconteurs. Mosshart’s presence, at least, makes sense—her slinky street-grit partners up nicely with White’s own devilish delivery on solid psych-blues tracks like “So Far From Your Weapon” and “Rocking Horse.” But for every decent cut, there are atrocities aplenty, from the annoying pseudo-reggae of “I Cut Like a Buffalo” to an over-heavy cover of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony” to wanna-seem-experimental instrumental “3 Birds.”
White’s drumming is adequate, and Fertita, who mostly plays keyboards in QOTSA, does nothing to embarrass himself on guitar. But with White self-exiled from a position of real impact, it’s tough to view Horehound as anything but another stopgap until the White Stripes inevitably resurface. Let’s just pray we won’t find Meg playing guitar when they do.