When The Dead Weather had their coming-out party in Nashville a few months ago, they immediately made it clear that, in their view at least, this was no ordinary band and they wouldn't be doing things the usual way.
Playing to a small, invite-only crowd (rumors of a White Stripes "secret show" had spread feverishly the week before), The Dead Weather raised the curtain on both themselves—Jack White of The White Stripes, Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs—and the new Nashville headquarters of White's record label, Third Man—a space that also functions as recording studio, record pressing facility and retail store. From the national press in attendance (Pitchfork, Blender, et al.) to the 7-inch records in hand-painted sleeves that served as party favors, the event said, "We have arrived. And we mean business."
Ever since, The Dead Weather have been a case study in how to keep your band's name bubbling up to the surface of the relentlessly churning music-news cycle. Immediately after their splashy entry, they offered curious new fans (most of them built-in from the followings of the Stripes, Raconteurs and Kills) a chance to stream the first single "Hang You Up From the Heavens" at the band's website. Then, like so many acetaminophen granules from a time-release capsule, doses of Dead Weather/Third Man news seeped into the collective metabolism every week or so: a video for the new single; the first open-to-the-public performance; a second single; a raft of forthcoming Third Man releases—all of them, it seemed, featuring Jack White on drums, Jack White as producer, or both. Then Third Man opened a second storefront in New York City—for two days, corresponding with the band's appearance there.
Soon after, Third Man announced a new subscription service called The Vault. The deal goes like this: Pay $7 a month (for at least three months) and you'll get to watch videos, access forums and photos, find out about ticket pre-sales, read artist blogs, and see "pay-per-view live concerts" of all three of Jack White's bands. Pay $20 a month (for at least three months) and, on top of all that, you'll get a 12-inch LP, 7-inch and T-shirt exclusive to subscribers every quarter. (Some wondered if there was much worth revealing in the "vaults" of a record label that was barely four months old. The incentive for pre-ordering Horehound at the NYC outpost: a download of a "previously unseen live photo of the band.")
The Dead Weather became so ubiquitous that they started making the news for things they didn't do: Tabloids reported a drunken brawl at a bar between White and Mosshart, which the normally taciturn Mosshart elected to publicly dispel.
At a certain point of ubiquity and utter attention-saturation, the nonstop omnipresence of band-as-brand starts to feel almost oppressive. When Horehound actually went on sale July 14, it felt almost beside the point, like it should have been subtitled, The Original Soundtrack to How Famous The Dead Weather Are. The album arrived three days after the band premiered the video for "Treat Me Like Your Mother"—not on the Internet, but on the cable network Cinemax, right before a broadcast of the Angelina Jolie assassination-porn flick Wanted.
The Jonathan Glazer-directed video, which runs like a deleted scene from some Quentin Tarantino grindhouse romp, features White and Mosshart (potential movie stars, both) stalking through an open field and firing automatic rifles at each other like ammo is going out of style. The relentlessness of the violence—the two stop only to reload or, in Mosshart's case, to stylishly light a cigarette before opening fire again—is both awesome and a little cartoonish, not unlike the band's nonstop media barrage or the wholly outsized charisma of its two lead personalities.
Any album—especially one recorded in three weeks—would struggle to live up to the hype that Horehound has generated. But in The Dead Weather's case, it may not matter. This is, after all, no ordinary band. And they do mean business.
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