The Dead Weather – “Dodge and Burn”

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “Rough Detective” “Open Up”

Whenever I bring up the Dead Weather, I find myself constantly defending them. I always ask myself ‘why? I think they’re a great band.’ But I get that that their brooding, scuzzy alt-pop is kind of a turn-off to some, and an unnecessary throwback to others. Plus, there’s the whole “Jack White is a dumpster human” thing. But “Dodge and Burn,” their third album, tries to right those wrongs.

Off the bat, there’s a problem with this album – the energy isn’t really kicked in until the halfway point. Their last album, 2010’s “Sea of Cowards,” starts off with a deafening rhythm on “Blue Blood Blues.” No rhythm matches that until “Rough Detective,” the sixth track of twelve. But the Dead Weather are trying to show that they don’t need to up the volume to be weird, to be engaging. It doesn’t always work from the get-go, “Buzzkill(er)” lives up to it’s title. But early tracks like “Three Dollar Hat” show that the band is adapt to minimalism as much as the opposite.

Still, the volume-heavy tracks like “Rough Detective” and immediate follow-up “Open Up” are the strongest – there’s just nothing like them. The Dead Weather show a wider range on “Dodge and Burn,” and although it leaves more room for mistakes, it shows them uniting as a band too. The Dead Weather work best when the listener remembers they’re a band – in paradoxical ways. Sometimes, they’re in unison, and sometimes they’re competing for the spotlight. The Mosshart/White vocal tracks have always been the band’s best, and we get too few, but it’s what makes “Rough Detective” so strong. Unlike White’s other projects, the Dead Weather feels the most like four people, expressing their emotions related to the project. This is reflective in the songwriting credits – each member is credited to at least five songs, with four songs credited to all four members. The Dead Weather are a band, and they reflect it.

The only song with a single credit is the piano finale, “Impossible Winner,” credited solely to Alison Mosshart. It is weirdly toned-down song, too pretty for a Dead Weather. It isn’t a red herring, necessarily, but it isn’t a showcase of talent, either, because we already knew these musicians were capable of it from their other projects. Though a great song on it’s own merit, it sticks out as a mistake on “Dodge and Burn.”

The album does have its inconsistencies, but it does balance restraint and, well, the opposite. It isn’t the strongest Dead Weather album, but it’s a good listen, and nice just to have them back in the first place. We can look forward to their next album, in either eight months of five years.

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