Welcome to the 21st-century's first notable supergroup: The Raconteurs. With members of the White Stripes and the Greenhornes, debut album "Broken Boy Soldiers" has a LOT to live up to.
And it's definitely a satisfying result -- rawer than the Greenhornes, more expansive than the White Stripes. The Raconteurs turn out solid, rough-edged rock'n'roll tunes and 60s-style guitar pop without leaning too much on any style. No grandstanding, not even a frontman. Just solid, unpretentious rock'n'roll.
It starts off with the slow burn and catchy rhythms of "Steady as She Goes," which orders you to "Find yourself a girl and settle down/Live a simple life in a quiet town." But over the blasts of guitar and grinding spurts, Brendan Benson wails, "But no matter what you do/You'll always feel as though you tripped and fell... Steady as she goes, are you steady now?"
The Raconteurs continue the solid guitar rock for a little while, but it's interrupted by the title track. It starts off as a galloping Middle-Eastern track, and soon Jack White is blasting through the song Robert-Plant-style. It's White's turn to shine, but he soon turns the spotlight back on his bandmates.
After that, the band starts to experiment even more: wailing bluesy rock with a lo-fi edge, ponderous bass-rock that seems to be experimenting with itself, claustrophobic whirlwinds, and even a bit of Beatlesy pop with the enchanting "Together." The album winds down gradually to a pensive alt-rock note, and you can almost picture the tired musicians wrapping up the day's work.
"Broken Toy Soldiers" is exactly what it appears to be -- solid, enjoyable rock music, without any gimmicks beyond the musicians themselves. Brendan Benson and his bandmates reaffirm their underrated musical skills, and Jack White proves he's more than a talented guy in a red, white and black outfit.
Just don't listen to "Broken Boy Soldiers" so you can pick out the musical influences. They blend almost seamlessly -- almost because some of the songs lean too heavily one way or another, which makes them stick out of the whole. Not bad, but a little distracting. However, the Raconteurs at their best have a solid, fast-paced, slightly unpolished sound.
The music is absolutely exploding with spare instrumentation: flexible electric guitar that can dance, strum or explode, and some equally intense blasts of murky bass. There's a bit of keyboard adding a surreal edge to songs like "Store Bought Bones." And finally, Patrick Keeler's drums run under every song, keeping them well grounded.
The Raconteurs make a solid debut with "Broken Boy Soldiers," with its unpolished, nimble rock sound. This is what a supergroup should sound like.
I think too many people are comparing The Raconteurs to other bands instead of viewing them in their own right. Yes, they sound quite a bit like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and, unsurprisingly, The White Stripes, but why are those automatically bad things? The Raconteurs do not have a very original sound, I'll admit that, but I couldn't care less to be honest. This is a great album full of great songs; that's all that matters. My favourite song has got to be "Broken Boy Soldier", which sounds like Rush performing a Fairport Convention song (I kid you not!) I'd recommend this album to anyone who likes 60s/70s rock bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Small Faces and The Doors.
Wow, we all love the White Stripes and especially Jack White's infectious and ground breaking idea's with music, I am fortunate to have already listened several times to Broken Boy Soldiers. This album truly takes him on another level (those who thought that possible after elephant?) To me the collaboration with already established band members has given Jack an added incentive to push the envelope further. His harmonies with Brendan are wonderful, this isn't just a Jack White showcase though, the influences are throughout from each individual member. Blue Veins being an old fashioned blues basher, Hands a decent late Beatles homeage and Yellow Sun wouldn't go amiss on any classic rock summer compilation. Each song is in a different style which only adds to the exquisite composition of the whole. This is THE album of 2006 and will be appreciated in time as one of the greatest ever recorded pieces of loveliness.
Wow! What a group! "The Raconteurs" is made up of Jack White of the White Stripes, with multi-talented Brendan Benson, and rockers Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of the Greenhornes for company
First hit "Steady As She Goes" (White/Benson) is first rate material, offering some good advice on marriage - "Find yourself a girl and settle down. Live a simple life in a quiet town". I also like "Hands" with its stirring chorus of "When you're with me there's a life and I can see my way, when you speak to me it's a song and I know what to say". The title track is a rock masterpiece, with a little Middle Eastern riff and an Irish jig thrown in for good measure, and is followed by the humorous "Intimate Secretary".
"Together" takes the pace down to ballad, so you can catch your breath before the short "Level" and "Store Bought Bones" pump you up again. "Yellow Sun" goes acoustic, while "Call It a Day" and "Blue Veins" close off this excellent album on an introspective note.
There's just one obvious problem - its only ten songs long. Ten songs is all we get for this huge debut album - so play it often and make it last.
After listening to this album straight through twice, I can honestly say that it lives up to the expectations I had after listening to the single and bits and pieces on the radio. It's fantastic, ranging in texture from rough (Hands, Level) through stippled (Yellow Sun) to satin (Together) The Raconterus have definitely not fallen over on this release.
This is certainly one of the greatest albums this year. "Steady As She Goes" is an absolutely adoreable song. As the hole album it's something like a mixture between alternative and some kind of folk and music from the late 50's / 60's. (But there's probably more alternative on this record.) I think everyone who likes John Frusciante's soloworks or Thelonious Monster will absolutely enjoy The Raconteurs, too. Whereas most of the average Pop listeners will surely dislike "Broken Boy Soldiers".
To most people, The Raconteurs - or as they are known in New Zealand due to an old jazz band, the Saboteurs - will to most people be a side-project rather than a supergroup. This is because most people have never heard of power-pop solo artist Brendan Benson, let alone the Greenhornes, whose rhythm section provide backup to Benson and White Stripes man, Jack White. However, while to most it's not a supergroup, in practice it most certainly is.
Pooling their considerable talents, the Raconteurs combine to form something that's not really like anything the four men have done before. I have long said that were Jack White to recruit a proper backing band (or even a decent drummer) I would willingly buy the record that would result, and Broken Boy Soldiers is that record; what an album it is.
While by no means perfect - `Blue Veins' is terrible, and unfortunately closes the album - Broken Boy Soldiers is a brilliant written, short, sharp pop record. At 33 minutes and ten songs long, with only one duff one, it wastes no time. None of the songs last longer than four minutes, but each of them crams a ton of invention and brilliance into that time slot. Brendan Benson, with his clear, Beatle-like voice melds wonderfully with Jack White's faintly unhinged, Robert Plant-meets-a-mental-patient vocals.
This album is clearly a democracy between Benson as the pop classicist and White as the experimentalist. Benson's songs are the lush, charming numbers like the perky `Yellow Sun'; White's are the often sinister boogies like `Level.' When they combine their talents is where things really take off, with the albums handful of truly great songs.
`Steady, As She Goes' is the opener, first single, and first song the two wrote together. No wonder they decided to take it on from here, with its storming chorus explosion, call-and-response vocals and malevolent organ backing. `Hands' is one of the contenders for best song here and best song of 2006; its faintly psychedelic, spiralling first section even has a brief guitar fill that sounds like vintage George Harrison guitar, circa-1966. `Store Bought Bones' fits a head-wrecking psych-prog epic into just over two minutes, with a recurring keyboard motif and a euphoric, squealing guitar solo from White. Best of all, `Intimate Secretary' blends feedback, synths and a stabbing acoustic guitar riff to some faintly hilarious lyrics (`I had an uncle but he got shot/I've got a red Japanese tea pot'), an amalgamation of this album's best points and the beauty of the White/Benson/Greenhornes combination.
Coupled with - it must be said - a competent, nay, brilliant rhythm section, White has finally broken his self-induced boundaries and made a vintage pop album. It could've come out thirty years ago; instead it's come out this year. Count yourself lucky, and add it to your collection.