Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Album Review - The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers

Jack White. The world is split at the very mention of his name. On one side you’ve got the haters and on the other you’ve got the devoted fans. Love him or hate him you cant deny his place in the elite crowd of today's rock 'n' roll superstars. Five world conquering albums. Hollywood movie star. Car accident related injuries. The scandal of being a front-man beater-upper, this fella‘s seen it all. I’ve been a big fan of The White Stripes since they started and I’ve always been of the opinion that as an axe-man there's not many people out there better then Mr. White, yet after his bands rushed and slightly tired 5th album 'Get Behind Me Satan' which was delivered to us early last year I’ve been left wanting more. I'll admit I chuckled when Noel Gallagher referred to him as 'A Zorro who's had too many donuts'. I went to the Empress for the second time and although a knockout performance was delivered I also wondered whether Jack had lost the plot when he came on stage looking like an extra from The Pirates Of The Caribbean, let’s not even mention that ‘sell-out’ Coca-Cola advert. Little did I know that Jack plus good friend and all-round Detroit nice guy Brendan Benson, who also put out his own record last year, were putting the finishing touches to material they had wrote and recorded way back in 2004. Was this material going to destroy all the doubting Stripes fans like myself, reaffirm the faith and maybe pick up some new fans along the way in a bid to untie the world at last ??? Ladies and Gentleman, allow me to introduce, The Raconteurs.....

Part White, part Benson, 2 part Greenhorne (Rhythm section Patrick Keeler & Jack Lawrence) this Blues soaked pop hybrid is just what the summer ordered. Here we have a record that’s knee deep in a 60’s retro style sound, dripping with layers of R ’n’ B (Think The Who and not Usher), Garage rock and modern pop flavours. Current single ‘Steady As She Goes’ is a Kinksian homage to late 60’s pop tunes, good enough to make Ray Davies himself tap his feat and join in on the chorus. “Find yourself a girl and settle down/live a quiet life in a quiet town” quips Jack, as he drives through Detroit with his new band, tossing his old Red, White and Black slacks in the road with aplomb. It seems to me that we have a band here made up of mates that, you know, just wanna make music and have fun and who are we to stop them ?! Check out album track ‘Intimate Secretary’ with its opening verse of “I’ve go a rabbit it likes to hop/I’ve got a girl and she like’s to shop/The other foot looks like it wont drop/I had an uncle and he got shot”….. How can this be the same Jack White that penned such serious, paranoid, fun-less songs such as ‘The Union Forever’ and ‘ I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentlemen Everyday’ I hear you ask ? What we get here is the musical equivalent of a man stretching his legs, embracing new band mates and writing his most accessible & commercial material to date. Track 3 - ‘Broken Boy Soldier’ is in fact the most Stripes-esque song on the here, with his trade mark falsetto screech and scratchy guitars reminiscent of his second album with Meg, De Stijl.

Of course song-writing duties are shared on this album by Benson and the first sample we get of his vocal is the track ‘Together’. Here is a song that would have John Lennon himself spinning around with joy if he were still alive, leaving him speechless as to how it never got onto his own ‘Imagine’ E.P. Sorry Beatles fans but on this track Benson has some how managed to cram all of Macca’s/Lennon’s early material into 4 minutes & 10 seconds of easy writing: “You’ve gotta learn to live and live and lean/You gotta learn to give and wait your turn” slips out of the speakers instantly transporting you back to the summer of 68. ‘Yellow Sun’ is another of Benson’s summer-kissed pop ditties that has a sing along chorus of “Your making me hungry/But what’s really funny/Its not sunny anymore” - Now I know what your thinking, I’ve got a 4 year old cousin who can write lyrics like that, trust me, its infectious stuff. The stand out track is the last on the album, ‘Blue Veins’, which would have had Nina Simone herself salivating at the mouth if she were given the chance to sing it. Its Jack White at his, blues ridden, smoking jazz club, preaching best. Complete with backward recording (Those pesky Beatles again!), piano’s and vocals that go hand and hand with a seat at the bar and a JD and coke by your side we have a song that Quentin Tarantino himself will be fighting to find a place for in his next film.

So what of the future ? Will this excellent album be enough to rip Jack away from the White Stripes for good ? Do we have to wait, drenched in panic no doubt, to hear if there will be that all important 5th Greenhorne’s album ? Is Meg really working the counter at the local 7/11 ? Who knows. One thing is for certain though, this wont be the last L.P. we hear from The Raconteurs. “I was passionate about doing this band, and its very much for the long term for me” said Mr. White in a recent interview. Steady as she goes it is then.

Words By Chad

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