This second release from Jack White's "other" band (with the same line up; Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler as their debut "Broken Boy Soldiers") finds them in top form as they produce what could amount to a primer on seventies gnarly blues rock leavened with a healthy knowledge of Americana.
Starting off with a snarling guitar bite on the title tune, there are riffs galore as Benson and White put their strings through the wringer with slashing solos and crunched up power chords predominating on the opening songs. "Salute Your Solution" hammers along with beefed up bass runs and squalls of guitar as White screams in his best vocal fashion. "Hold Up" is another frantically paced effort that is reminiscent of Todd Rungren's heavy metal thrashes circa '72 and "Five on the Five" roars along with a twin guitar solo and more excellent bass riffing.
The meat of the album however is when the band slows down and, without sacrificing the energy quotient, produce a blues inflected rock sound with plenty of light and shade as used to be practised by the likes of Led Zeppelin.
"Top Yourself" is an excellent, slide driven slouch with a banjo and acoustic guitar framework underpinning the deep south voodoo swirl as White sings:
"… such a little girl like a spinning top mama but she spinning out of control/takes sleeping with a snake like you to rip upon my soul. / How you gonna rock yourself to sleep when I give up my midnight creep girl/how you gonna get that deep when your daddy ain't around to do it to you."
Deep and dirty and worthy of sitting on Led Zep 3 next to "Gallows Pole".
Although White is the predominant personality here, Benson's contributions add enough to make this more than a fuller band version of The White Stripes. "Many Shades of Black" is a cracker with horns driving a soulful stomp and "Old Enough" is a country rocker with a fiddle embroidering a powerful romp. This is followed by "The Switch and the Spur," whose title alone is reminiscent of Calexico. A ballad with Mexican sounding horns, it starts off strongly. With a story line and tune that reminds one of the mellower early Blue Oyster Cult, it also has that wide screen spaghetti western feel.
The one cover on the album is an atmospheric version of Terry Reid's magnificent "Rich Kid Blues." Why this cover? Who knows but one remembers that Reid was the original choice for the Led Zep vocalist before Percy Plant rode into town. Whatever, if the song heads a few folk into investigating Reid then it's a job well done. Overall, this is a great listen with the band all pulling together with excellent bass and drums backing the guitar pyrotechnics. The album ends with "Carolina Drama," a tremendous murder ballad with wispy female backing vocals and fiddle as White sings of a white trash tragedy that is as melodramatic and southern gothic as they come.