Supergroups, an admittedly stupid name, all too often drown in the shadows of the main groups. Case in point: obscure grunge one-off Mad Season's Above. Members of Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Screaming Trees (Layne Staley, Mike McCready, and Barrett Martin, respectively), who were all major players in the then burgeoning grunge scene, came together and essentially wove a blues-informed sound into the style. The album, while yielding a somewhat popular single in River of Deceit, was ultimately doomed to obscurity. Some tracks contained overly long blues jams that turned off some AIC and PJ fans, and many fans of John Baker Saunders' (the group's bassist) didn't care much for the grunge fueled hard rock.
What makes The Dead Weather probably the best blues influenced side project since Mad Season (and possibly better) is the lack of similarity to the musicians' original groups. Although the likelihood of anyone hearing about this band without mention of the members' higher-profile main projects is very low, any such person would not be able to make an immediate connection to any of these bands. While Horehound definitely has thundering, crunching guitar that recalls Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes (thanks in no small part to Dean Fertita's guitar playing) and The Kills' sexual charisma (courtesy of Alison Mosshart's smoky vocals), there is little else to make this sound like, well, a supergroup.
The opening track "60 Feet Tall" sounds like a blues rock jam made accessible, with a build-up and climax that would make John Lee Hooker proud. Immediately after this is the first single, "Hang You from the Heavens," which is propelled by Jack White's extremely sophisticated drumming (apparently White plays guitar in some other band, The White Strippers or something... I've never heard of them) and Fertita's crushing guitar. The intro of these two songs shows right away that these folks have got energy to spare, and more importantly, chemistry. On Heavens, when it seems like the muscular musical backbone is going to dominate the whole album, Mosshart steps in and steals the show. It takes quite a strong singer to front a band this capable, and she fits the bill. And a half. She keeps up with White without issue, and truly takes charge on the aggressive "Treat Me Like Your Mother". Horehound is closed with the slow-burning, haunting "Will There Be Enough Water?", which if just a smidge darker in tone would resemble one of Nick Cave's blues covers from his album Kicking Against the Pricks. Not to mention the record's cohesiveness; everything flows and each song is nestled into exactly where it needs to be.
Just as Mad Season had done fourteen years earlier, and even better in some regards (being a little less indulgent with the lengthy jams, primarily) The Dead Weather put together an album of blues you can rock out to; unfortunately, also like Mad Season, The Dead Weather lacks the pop sensibility to gain any popularity past the band members' already-existing fame.
That doesn't mean it's not damn good, though.