Let's imagine for a second that Jack White is not involved with this project. It is, after all, his inclusion in this foursome that makes whatever this band that much more "important" and the release of their latest long platter noteworthy, but, considering it wasn't THAT long ago that White was criss-crossing the festival circuit promoting his last solo record, you couldn't blame someone for not quite being ready for more from the pride of '90s Detroit garage rock just yet.
So, based only on its sonic appeal and not the membership of a former White stripe guitarist, Dodge & Burn is still one of the more ambitious efforts to come down the pike this year. Mixing Zeppelin-esque stomp rock with heavy doses of psychedelia, after the first couple songs, it's actually easy to forget all about you-know-who. Unfortunately, Alison Mosshart's vocals, through no fault of her own, fail to command the same attention in the sonic landscape as White's and, in doing so, the whole performance never quite takes flight.
Of course, then Jack White takes over vocals on "Three Dollar Hat", as if having fought through a standing-room-only crowd to make it to the stage before Mosshart is forced to sing another tune.
When Mosshart returns to the mic for "Lose The Right", there's actually a pretty great vocal performance that is, by and large, buried with a muddy EQ. The intent, I suspect, is to treat the vocals as yet another instrument, but such an "all things created equal" approach may work for others, but not when you have a singer capable of elevating any song she wraps her voice around.
By comparison, White's vocals on "Rough Detective" command your attention from the word go and one begins to get the feeling that Mosshart is the proverbial opening act getting only a fraction of the stage and sludgy sound so that the headliner sounds that much better when they finally hit the stage.
Is White truly stacking the deck against his own band mate? If so, he's doing it at his own peril...or is he?
On "Open Up" the sonic clarity of the guitar literally jumps out of the speakers, yet Mosshart's vocals remain somewhat thin and low in the mix. It's a shame because the song itself plays right into her strengths as a singer, giving her an opportunity to make use of her upper register and to inject some real emotion into the proceedings.
"Mile Markers" continues this trend, showing off Mosshart's confident vocal strut. The band are equally confident and muscular, creating a chunky, yet tight groove that surely sounds even better in-concert.
"Cop And Go" and "Too Bad" indulge in some supremely tasty Led Zep style butt-rock, allowing the band to flex their muscles and their chops in equal measure.
Album closer "Impossible Winner" slows down the pace and places the spotlight squarely upon Mosshart as her voice and a lone piano build to a simple full-band crescendo that recalls something from a Queen's Innuendo. Mosshart's vocals are the star here and the song itself is a winner worthy of being issued as the next single.