Released less than a year after the band's raucous debut, Horehound, the Dead Weather's Sea of Cowards is not exactly a rehash, but it is an extension of the former, with a few new wrinkles. Another high-octane dose of primal blues with fanged lyrics, Sea of Coward fails only when inspiration flags.
The electronically throttled opener "Blue Blood Blues" is Jack White's truculent opening statement, suggesting his increased presence on this outing and offering his assurance that he is just visiting ("If I left / You never see me again / I wouldn't leave a trace"). Meanwhile, "Hustle and Cuss," Alison Mosshart's preliminary decree, is buoyed by the thumping bass of Jack Lawrence and White's jazzy drum fills.
The band loses focus with "I'm Mad," a playfully feverish song with Mosshart and White's call-and-response over revving instrumentation that emphasizes the relative similarities between their vocals. The gristly, thrashing twisted-love number "Die by the Drop," however, is the band's career highlight thus far, with Mosshart and White caterwauling, "I'm gonna take you for worse or better / To my little grave," to ferocious effect.
Mosshart's snarling "Gasoline" is balanced by tight electric blues riffs, while the distracting electronic wizardry of White's "Looking at the Invisible Man" finds him overreaching lyrically ("I'm like a newspaper / You can't read me"). Still, White's haunted, quasi-religious closer "Old Mary" is evocative blues-noir.
The Dead Weather are fairly enjoyable when playing it rote, but when inspiration strikes, they are dangerous and exhilarating.