Jack White Breaks Into Forgettable Rage

The Dead Weather

Sea of Cowards

Third Man

If Jack White is a lunatic (not entirely impossible), then supergroup the Dead Weather is the hotwired Oldsmobile with which he runs down innocent bystanders while screaming insane one-liners about mayhem and destruction. Sophomore Dead Weather effort Sea of Cowards is Icky Thump on steroids: 35 minutes of vicious guitar solos and enough crazed screech sessions to make System of a Down blush crimson.

At its rollicking best, the chaos is cathartic, but too often the fury fails to instill in us anything beyond a fleeting, blood-pumping high. Luckily, band members Allison Mosshart and Dean Fertita are too talented to let the album dip below mediocrity. White ditches his trademark guitar for the drums, while Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age fame) delivers a steady barrage of sufficiently disturbed lyrics. In fact, the drums are the only tame aspect of Sea of Cowards, while both bass and guitar work to assault the listener like a sonic boom and White and Mosshart take turns pouring rage into the microphone.

And there are just enough twists in their ferocity to prevent either vocalist from becoming a mosquito in our ear. Likewise, the brevity of the album (all 11 songs come in at under four minutes) prevents its guitars from becoming grating. “Die by the Drop” is a highlight, with a gritty keyboard and guitar intro that segues into a massive hook — laying down the groundwork for a blistering vocal clash between White and Mosshart.

White’s lack of inhibition is always a pleasure, but this particular project never achieves greatness — hampered by a shortage of catchy hooks or memorable guitar lines that no flurry of passion can rectify.