THE DEAD WEATHER: DODGE AND BURN
The world envisioned on Dodge and Burn, the third long-player in The Dead Weather's discography, is inhabited by murders, adulterers, crooked cops and rough detectives. It is a bleak place, and is definitely not characterized by happy endings, or at least not in the traditional sense. It is without a doubt the most fully realized Dead Weather release to date, and is indeed the closest thing to a concept album that Jack White has ever been associated with.
The album opens with lead-off single, "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)", casting vocalist Alison Mosshart against a bleak desert landscape, aimlessly drifting in search of questions to answers unbeknownst to the listener, as Mosshart pleads: "What does the blacktop know, that I have not cracked with my mind?". The scene shifts to The Dead Weather's home state of Tennesse on "Buzzkill(er)", once again depicting Mosshart on the move and leading a nomadic, amoral existence under the watchful gaze of the Good Lord, who she shrugs off as she carries on her way.
The first major plot development in the narrative arc of Dodge and Burn takes place over the course of "Let Me In" and "Three Dollar Hat", which collectively detail the arrival of a loathsome character named Jackie Lee, who subsequently tries to murder a man named Johnny. By the end of "Three Dollar Hat," Jackie Lee has been sentenced to death and hung, with his severed hands left on the butcher's block as a warning to any potential outlaws still roaming the land.
The album's centrepiece, "Rough Detective," details the interrogation presumably associated with the Jackie Lee case, and features some of the strongest vocal interplay between Mosshart and White found on the album. Shady interrogation tactics abound, with White asserting: "I'll make you retell your story now just to trip you up." The song's chorus, "Don't make me run, baby" presumes inherent guilt on the part of the suspect, and thus the plot thickens.
The album's second half is ultimately less plot-driven than the A-side, but nonetheless remains faithfully thematically focussed on the seedy characters that inhabit the world of Dodge and Burn. On "Mile Markers", Mosshart prophetically asserts: "I'd really like to see you when you finish out your sentence, dear soul mate behind stripes and stars." Immediately this lyric recalls Jack White's standout Blunderbuss track "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy," which similarly claims to "let the stripes unfurl," a lyric that White claims to be about the dissolution of the American dream, and not his former band The White Stripes.
While it was earlier argued that there are no happy endings on Dodge and Burn, there is nonetheless a great deal of resolution on the album's closing song, "Impossible Winner." Featuring Mosshart's lead vocal accompanied by piano and a string quartet, the song is like nothing else in The Dead Weather's discography. Easily the album's highlight, Mosshart answers some of her own questions from "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles", ultimately realizing that "I am the desert sun, the ever endless sea. Not a drop of blue or white is where it shouldn't be." In short, if the world of Dodge and Burn is bleak and violent, "Impossible Winner" is the proof that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.
- Leks Maltby