More Than A Side Project
Taking a break from the rigors of being a colour coordinated rock star, Jack White has come up with the perfect way to relax and unwind, a means to escape the demanding world of the music business by doing the obvious of course, by forming what many have described as Detroit's own supergroup with old friends Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler. True, many other so called supergroups that boasted majestic line ups failed from the start but The Raconteurs seem to buck the trend, producing what is destined to be a contender for single of the year in 'Steady, As She Goes' and now offering an album that is sure to prove that The Raconteurs are anything but Jack White's side project.
Providing the trade mark White Stripe garage rock with the added bonus of a bass, album opener 'Steady, As She Goes' is a janglely radio friendly anthem that is compellingly addictive without becoming tiresome. But this is as close to the mainstream as The Raconteurs are destined to come. Broken Boy Soldiers instead heads boldly down a blues tinged path drenched in 6os psychedelic rock, brandishing pop hooks, foot stomping beats and three part harmonies a plenty and lacking only the key fashion essentials of long hair, bandannas and trademark jeans. With psychedelic synths playing over hypnotising tribal like drum beats; 'Broken Boy Soldier' is as close as you can come to Led Zeppelin without facing a restraining order. A rock blues beat melds with White's scratchy wailing vocals that perfectly encapsules a 60s rock stance as he declares "I've done ripping myself off again" before the song comes to an all too abrupt end. 'Intimate Secretary' continues on the same path invoking The Who cross The Small Faces vibe as Benson's understated vocals are joined by the howl of White before meeting with a distorted organ and slide guitar. Yes, The Raconteurs are very much the classic rock band and although they may not be injecting the type of ambience and ground breaking newness that The White Stripes are renowned for, The Raconteurs are instead perfectly crafting a retro rock stance that is both comforting and refreshing.
Broken Boy Soldiers is far from being just homage to classic blues rock though. Sprinkled teasingly in between are ballad-esque story telling gems made ever more poignant and meaningful by the unassumingly inconspicuous vocal talents of Brendan Benson working in tandem with White's high pitched moan. Traipsing along at a heart-rending pace, 'Together' is lyrically wonderful with Benson and White harmonising superbly on such lines as "you've gotta learn to live, and live and learn" whilst 'Hands' picks up the tempo slightly with a drum beat and squealing guitar riff that drive a laid back feel through each verse before cutting loose for the chorus, adding a Beatleish stance to the track. Meanwhile, 'Level' again recaptures the psychedelic set up of the album but merges it instead with tender melodies and Benson and White's combined vocals allowing the song to be both a tender ballad and psychedelic rock all at once.
Surrounded by a barrage of hype, so called supergroups are nearly always met with pessimists who are just waiting for them to fail, to tell them to return to the band that made them and forget about any other collaborations. Fans of 'Steady, As She Goes' may find that they will be at the forefront of this crowd, pleading with Jack White to return to Meg, don the black and red uniform once more and stick to the simplicity of one drummer and one guitarist as Broken Boy Soldiers progressively moves away from the radio friendly style of its debut single. Perseverance is the key though. The Raconteurs are not initially an easy listen but after awhile the layers of each track steadily unpeel to revel ingenious musicianship and finally prove that the words 'super' and 'group' can go together and work. Who knows, maybe soon everyone will be talking of that little group White played in before making it big with The Raconteurs.