I am a fanboy. As such, I know an extremely hard life, torn between fawning devotion, and slavishly hiding away the knowledge that the subjects of my admiration are far from infallible. It’s nothing new if you’re a fan of any cult program — especially in the realm of geekdom! Every “Star Trek” fan must live with the fact that their beloved Capt. James T. Kirk is played by an awful, jerky, egomaniac who really, really, really let himself go. Aficionados of “The Simpsons” must live with the criticism of ‘it’s been awful since *whatever season*, and never redeemed itself’ (if I may digress: this is simply not true, but I will concede that Season 16 is less than stellar).
These principles apply to music as well. The obvious greatness of one band is either lost on the masses completely, or appreciated by undeserving fans who take them for granted. Even worse, what makes them unique, or even great, becomes criticized, and it’s okay, because musical tastes are subjective. But the frustration of one person criticizing another’s musical taste is felt even worse because of the personal attachment we make to certain band members — their stories, their compositions, and, especially, their lyrics. Like most people, a fanboy will take the brunt of this criticism head-on with little preparation or justification, and suffer knowing that, deep down, they’re right.
I am a fanboy of Jack White. I adore just about damned near every thing he does. Though I only became interested in the White Stripes when everyone else seem to at the release of “White Blood Cells,” I’ve hungrily consumed everything he’s done. I have my collection of their original releases, and their B-sides, and continue to search for more — if there are any (and there are: see the previous entry on Jack’s previous band, The Upholsterers). I love the Raconteurs, and how both of their albums thus far show two completely different sounds and efforts. Their first, an amazing collection of pop-psych that ends all too soon; the follow-up being the only album to rival the scope, majesty, and hard-edged roughness of the Who’s “Who’s Next.” I’ve had friends cite my devotion to his work as damned near obsessive. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I must make this confession:
I really do not like the Dead Weather album. I think it was overrated, and, dare I say, it confirmed my worst fear that rock critics have the very same blind devotion to Jack White that I do. It’s not that I felt like the White Stripes would become the band that I know ‘before they were big,’ but it seems that from here on out there are expectations that he’s so far above meeting that’s reserved for classic artists (Seriously, Rolling Stone? You’re going to give Bob Dylan’s Christmas album three stars at least?!) By this, I mean that whatever comes next for Jack White, his reviews — even when the finished product is okay by comparison — will be consistently positive with little reluctance to say something critical.
What was so detrimental to the Dead Weather was that it showed up mysteriously, with listeners and critics only guessing at the potential from the initial single offered on the band’s earliest website (The A-side “Hang You from the Heavens”, the B-side “Are Friends Electric?” — the fact that this was not included on the album “Horehound” was a HUGE mistake). Would it be like the Raconteurs, but just with a female vocalist? Does anyone really know what Jack’s drumming style is like? If Jack Lawrence is worthy of being in both bands, does this mean we should really be paying more attention and credit to bassists, or are they simply interchangeable root players? Who’s Dean Fertita? These questions and more circled the collective conscious of rock’s cooler heads, only for them to religiously devote themselves to the end product when they received it months before the rest of us did. What was key to the Dead Weather’s success? Mystery, and attachment to the unknown.
But what was the result? An album where every guitar part sounds the same, to a point where they’re in the same key, and it’s simply awash of feedback without any real mastery of the effect. Alison Mosshart, while a fine and capable singer, cannot help but make me think that this is actually the Kills, with two extra band members. And while surely one of the intentions of having Jack perform at the back of the stage was to take away from his growing celebrity persona, he’s still a very prominent force influencing the sound of the album, more than just being the producer, and co-songwriter. I still have no idea who Dean Fertita is, and Jack Lawrence remains to be America’s most underrated bass player.
“Horehound” was nothing but filler with a couple of fine songs thrown in for good measure. Yes, I will concede that it was an impressive effort considering the band formed on a whim and recorded the album in a matter of weeks, but unlike the Raconteur’s “Broken Boy Soldiers” (recorded with similar circumstances and most songs being leftovers from White and Benson’s respective other projects), this did not wet my appetite for more. I am not clamoring, hoping there’s more to come from the Dead Weather the way I anticipate with absolute awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night desperation for the next Raconteurs or White Stripes album. It was boring, and very underwhelming considering the prowess of all members involved. I stand by this final assessment: “Horehound” is a sub par Kills album, and a half-hearted effort from Jack White. It’s simply not fun.
And so, with this rambling preamble complete, it is my duty to report that in an interview with Rolling Stone, Jack predicts another Dead Weather album will be released some spring time, before their tour of Australia. He claims that many of these songs are ready for recording, as they are being incorporated into the set list already. He says of the songs, “We can’t tell you that much about it except that it’s gonna be really expansive, and I use that word loosely in a scientific sense, meaning that I’m just using it to distract you.”
Nothing would make me happier right now than a confirmation of the Stripes album that was supposedly going to happen this year, and a reunion of the Greenhornes.