Broken Boy Soldiers
7

  • The Raconteurs
  • Third Man/XL
  • 2006-05-15

So, Jack White’s flirtation with evil behemoth Coca Cola. What do you think? Is the stalwart purist of retro rock a corporate shill or is he right to use the advert as a platform to spread his message of love? If he is aiming for a more commercial side to his music then he could find one with this debut album by his new band, although ironically he still may not end up playing the same stadium venues with the Raconteurs as the White Stripes have in their weird rise to popularity.

The members of the band have been pretty well documented elsewhere, but for those not up to speed this is a side project for four friends from Detroit who are in other bands. The rythym section is that of uber Garage band, The Greenhornes (Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler). Joining White on vocals and songwriting duties is power-pop singer songwriter Brendan Benson. The lead single, “Steady As She Goes”, has been somewhat ubiquitous on (alternative) radio for two months or so and is a great start to the album. This was the first Raconteurs track written and it must have persuaded Benson and White that this could be a fruitful partnership. The resultant 30 odd minutes of Broken Boy Soldiers remains in the same vein as this, short, rock songs with invariably great choruses and run through with various 60s and 70s influences.

Short, rock songs with invariably great choruses and run through with various 60s and 70s influences.

Although all the songs here are co-credited to both Jack n Brendan there are distinct enough differences between most songs to guess who was the main author, similar to the Lennon/McCartney relationship. Brendan Benson’s solo work often takes it’s cues from the Nirvana and the melodicism of the Beatles and so he continues here — “Hands” takes the crunchy guitar of the former and welds it to a tune that could have appeared on the latter’s Revolver. Benson sings on, and presumably writes, the more simple tracks in general but they don’t feel out of place or overshone by other offerings — “Together” is a sweet contemplative strum, and “Yellow Sun” summery guitar pop ready made for festivals.

JW seems to be behind the stranger elements of this record, true to form. And if this is his attempt at relative mainstream then he’s not left all his eccentricities with the White Stripes. “Broken Boy Soldier” is the sort of edgy psychedelic garage performed by Love or the Electric Prunes and could be snuck onto Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection without too many noticing. “Level” sounds like the raw funk rock of Blood, Sweat and Tears or Deep Purple. The oddest track is “Store Bought Bones”, conventional in a structural sense but with a droning verse and yelping chorus. Jack White also supplies the album closer, and one of the highlights. When played live “Blue Veins” is closer to the output of his day job, but on record backwards effects are added and it becomes psychedelic blues similar to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” on Abbey Road.

It’s retro, and unashamably so. And that will probably be levelled at some point as a criticism. But this is not a ponderous tribute a la Oasis, but fun and decent in it’s own right, especially bearing in mind this is a diversion from usual musical exploits (though not too different in some cases).

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