Welcome to album two band three for Jack White’s black-garbed The Dead Weather. “Sea of Cowards” comes less than a year after the band’s first effort, “Horehound”; meaning that expecting “Sea of Cowards” to be “Horehound: The B-sides” might not be that rare. But this is not at all the case. “Sea of Cowards” stands perfectly fine on its own as a snarling, uncompromising eleven-pack of howl-in-your-face tunes.
It’s not tough to imagine “Sea of Cowards” as being the result of a jam session. In fact, listening to the record in one sitting feels like the band’s in the room performing, glowering all their un-merry time. “Sea of Cowards” is a fighter through and through, and she’s a strong one at that. Perhaps the strongest element here that was missing on “Horehound” is how solid Jack and Jack (or White and Lawrence) work as a rhythm section. The two of them work together to keep the track firmly planted on the ground with White’s thundering drums and Lawrence’s distorted, punching basslines. Meanwhile, Dean Ferita jumps between eerie guitars and banshee wail synths to fill in the void and play alongside frontwoman Alison Mosshart. Who, by the way, is at the top of her game here with a tight grip on her alternating loud and soft vocals, using both in the right places. As a whole, the band sounds incredibly tight, deftly turning in stellar performances on freakouts like Die By The Drop while keeping things together on slow burners like Gasoline and I Can’t Hear You.
If I had one complaint with “Sea of Cowards”, though, it would be the lack of anything like “Horehound” opener 60 Feet Tall, or closer Will There Be Enough Water where the band focuses more on atmosphere instead of making a ruckus. But the tradeoff is that “Horehound” seemed to middle a lot more than “Sea of Cowards”, which keeps the energy and the volume up more often and is more engaging as a whole. An overall improvement. Four stars.
tl;dr: The Dead Weather avoid an easy to do more-of-the-same on album two by outdoing themselves in almost every way.