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The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

July 9, 2006

Having heard and thoroughly understood the Raconteurs first (and possibly last) album, I have not actually heard any material from band member Brendan Benson or both members of the Cincinatti band The Greenhornes. So when I’m telling my friends that I got the album from “Jack White’s new band,” I feel a little silly and left out. Because the band is obviously not Jack White’s new band. “New” describes the band as being more than just a one time thing, and there is no word on whether or not this is actually true. But I honestly don’t think I’m the only one who would describe this as Jack White’s new band, because he is clearly out in front the most, and the most well known member of the new superband too. I’m pretty sure no other member of the band sings here at all, except maybe for backup vocals. But what I’m trying to say is, I’m going to talk about the album heavily in relation to the work of Jack White, because he is the one that I am familliar with. So if you want a completely balanced review or you are sick and tired of Jack White’s antics, I reccomend you redirect your browser.

Anyway, I’ll come out and say that this is probably nothing you haven’t heard before somewhere. The entire album is heavily reminiscent of the sixties and seventies, and you could probably dig up some of your parents vinyl that at least vaguely has the same kind of elements. In fact, I was a bit shocked when I heard some of the layerd backup vocals that are a trademark Beatles thing. And the effects Jack throws onto his voice during Blue Veins is very John Lennon esque. I mean, this is a band that isn’t afraid to say that they haven’t forgotten the good old days when you could wear clothes like they do on the cover. But with that said, the album actually covers a whole lot of ground, and it doesn’t sound tired like you would expect an album with this much old-timer influence to be.

The big catch is obviously that Jack has now temporarily left Meg White for a full band with some serious talent. It’s actually still very unnerving for me to not hear Meg’s relentless pounding, and instead a more controlled beat with lots of bass and a few guitars to help it out, and a lot of cool effects and a less raw production. Is that good? Well… Jack seems to think that it is very obvious that it is good. With all due respect, if you do the math, there is no way that this isn’t good. But when I think about it, the real catch with this band is that Jack White is writing music with someone else. White Stripes fans will love this, of course. That isn’t even a question. The curious thing is, in my head, I can lay Meg’s drumming over almost any individual track and it would sound like something the White Stripes would have written. But at the same time, not exactly. The sound is less raw and tough, and that’s a downside to some extent. But the upside is that these songs are clearly being performed in the medium they should be performed in.

I said before that the album covers a lot of ground. It seems that I take pride in reviewing a lot of albums that are diverse. Yes, this album covers a lot of ground, but I would hardly call it diverse. There isn’t any genre switching so much as a heavy variance within the one genre, which is pop/rock. But you never hear the same thing twice on this album, and that is very good. I was actually shocked at the tune Broken Boy Soldier and it’s eastern tinge, and in that song you can actually hear Jack White struggling to break away from his White Stripes mode when he flips on the distortion for his voice. The single, Steady As She Goes, is solid, as is my personal favorite track, Intimate Secretary, reminding us that garage rock revival might not have just been a small phase. There are also a lot of classic pop tunes like Hands and the happy Yellow Sun. There really isn’t too much bad on this album, but there are a few flubs. Level is a tad annoying, the vocals on Together turn an otherwise instrumentally solid piece a little sour, and Can We Call It A Day is just bad. But that’s to be expected. The disk isn’t perfect, but no one was expecting it to be.

I’m sure there is a certain question going through everyones mind. Is this album better than any White Stripes albums? Well, considering I’m a diehard White Stripes fan, I’m probably not the one to answer this question, but I will. It’s better than Get Behind Me Satan, and it’s almost on par with s/t. And I’ll admit, it’s taking a little while to fully settle in, but it’s getting there. It seems like the band worked really hard to make the disk likeable to it’s listeners, and that is good.

The fact of the matter is, this is just really good quality pop. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And it was really a joy for me to listen to, and the instrumental complexity is something I have been waiting to hear, whether or not it is good for Jacks songwriting escapades. There are some points where I wonder how much is really Jack White and how much is really the rest of the band. Because the quality here is just so high above Jack Whites other recent material that it makes me wonder how he could get so much better on a songwriting level without the help of the other band members. I mean, it’s a given that the other band members have written a lot of the music too, and that Jack White in fact only co-wrote most of these songs. So that question can be answered only by the release of another White Stripes album or another Raconteurs album. At this point I am indifferent to which happens. It’s a good, enjoyable disk that forecasts future success, and that’s all I could have possibly asked for.

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One comment

  1. you’ve got good taste in music :)..



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