Sea of Cowards

The second album by the Dead Weather, Jack White's current singing-drummer gig and gothic-blues holiday, is a rock of action — nothing but action. There is barely room to breathe, much less sing along, in these vicious twists and blitzkrieg segues. "Blue Blood Blues" is a furious pileup of Jack Lawrence's grunting fuzz bass, Dean Fertita's abrasive skidding guitar and bizarre doo-wop vocal pepper, pushed around by White's mule-kick outbursts at his kit. "I'm Mad" zigzags between fire-dance delirium and drunken-Godzilla stomp, with jolts of abused synthesizer and vocalist Alison Mosshart's she-devil vengeance. Technically, these 11 tracks are songs, with titles and hooks. The effect, though, is more like a precisely arranged parade of spasms, blasted at you in a kind of aural IMAX. Last year's Horehound had the same feral air. But the moving parts on Sea of Cowards — the distortion on Fertita's guitar riffs in "Die by the Drop"; the clang of White's pie-plate-cymbal crashes in "Hustle and Cuss"; his and Mosshart's incantatory bursts and lost-soul harmonies — come faster, meaner and fatter. There are more single-worthy tunes on White's records with the Raconteurs; in the White Stripes, he prefers his blues with limits. But with this band, White lets himself go over the top. Don't be too cool to go along.