Music Matters: Hustle and Cuss (Or, Why I Love Alison Mosshart)
Possible trigger warning--read post before watching videos.
If you happen to follow me on Tumblr, my obsession with Alison Mosshart is no secret. The witchy-haired singer/guitarist/all-around rock superheroine from The Kills and The Dead Weather probably occupies more space on my Tumblr than anyone aside from David Bowie and Paul Simonon of the Clash (about both of whom, more later).
I love Mosshart because she occupies a very interesting space in rock right now. Especially as frontwoman for The Dead Weather, she is a rock'n'roll personality that's part throwback to 70s and 80s rock, with an unearthly wail and ragged moan that's deeply sexual, an utterly captivating stage presence only partly dependent on her interplay with bandmate Jack White, with whom she occasionally shares a microphone.
I'm actually a bigger fan of The Kills, whose fuzzy low-fi rock is usually more my speed, but The Dead Weather are actually excellent for blasting in my ears to block out the world, whether it's street harassers in my neighborhood or loud coworkers. There's something primal about Mosshart's voice and the blues-tinged heaviness of the band, its wail and thump make me forget what's made me angry. It's power music, and it's definitely female while not being terribly feminine. You understand.
The two videos I've posted here are both, well, sorta violent. In the Dead Weather clip above, Mosshart and White stalk each other with assault rifles, absorbing bullet after bullet without falling. The Kills clip below is creepier, with Mosshart and her bandmate Jamie Hince beating up on each other interspersed with shots of them playing onstage. Neither one got the attention of the notorious Eminem/Rihanna video, probably because far fewer people have heard of The Kills or even The Dead Weather.
But also because (I think) Mosshart is an equal partner in mayhem—the videos don't read (to me) as domestic violence—they read sparring partner. Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith for instance, or Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight. I remember reading a piece when Mr. and Mrs. Smith came out, discussing the casting, and the producers/directors/whomever it was saying that they had to find an actress who would be believable as an equal to Brad Pitt in a fight, or else the film's fight scenes would simply read as abuse.
Mosshart has that kind of personality. In the Dead Weather clip, she and White are deliberately dressed similarly, both with sunglasses and wild black hair in their faces, and in the Kills clip, she matches him in size and instigates most of the fighting. And this stature carries across to her performance--she is tough, wild, energetic, an equal partner, never the token girl.
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