Lean, mean, and propelled on the throaty thrust of a tough girl with a brand new hook-up -- what’s not to love when it comes to the Dead Weather’s Horehound (Warner Bros./Third Man). Jack White’s latest handcrafted collabo comes to S.F. for the first time at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival Sunday, Aug. 27. I’m betting cash money that it’s going to be a major challenge to find a scrap of grassy turf at that performance -- what with all those White Stripes and Raconteurs fans. But listening to Horehound and considering its players -- White, Alison Mosshart (the Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), and Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs, the Greenhornes) -- chances are it will be well worth it and the show will be a dead-on hot one.
After all, who can resist a track like “New Pony,” with its heavier-than-Electric Mud wickedly meaty guitar and its ironclad, blues-at-the-crossroads, evildoing allusions to Lucifer? Kudos go to the foursome for their uncanny sense of balance, as they try out new musical forms and ornaments: They know when to lay back and bare their bones, taking the sound to just shouts, snare and kick drum -- and when to really dig their heels, teeth and fat, crunchy riffs in, with a cock-eyed nods to such freak-flag-fliers as Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer.
Of course, twosomes like the White Stripes -- and the Kills -- specialize rock ‘n’ roll minimalism, but the sound here has opened up, grown spacious and aerated with White behind the drum kit, rather than dominating on guitar (now the purview of Fertita). Horehound is funny -- hear White and Mosshart’s gasping and weezing as they chant, “You cut a record on my throat / But the record's not broken / Is that you choking” on the horror blues-slash-dub “I Cut Like a Buffalo.” And it’s more contemporary at the same time, further dragging the blues out of its feel-good shadows into even deeper midnight with tweaked and screwed numbers like the synth and keyboard-riddled “Bone House” and bad-ass blues-rap “Hang You From the Heavens.”
Those latter tunes come off as the dirty-minded, snarly sisters to Peaches and her potty-mouthed electro-raps -- a bit of naughty, arty Berlin in down-home, all-American Nashville (where White’s Third Man Records is headquartered and the Dead Weather played its first show). Sexy, twisted and thoroughly modernized for 21st century electric, eclectic rockers, Dead Weather sounds like a storm worth chasing.
The Dead Weather play Twin Peaks Stage at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival Sunday, Aug. 27, 3:50-4:50 p.m., at Golden Gate Park, S.F. For details, go to www.sfoutsidelands.com.