Broken Boy Soldiers
Detroit Rock City has produced some truly timeless and ridiculously creative music. Unfortunately it seems that Brendan Benson and Jack White sat down one day with too much beer and rifled through all of their old 45s. “Holy shit, did you hear that intro?” “It was amazing. Hey, remember the Beach Boys and how sweet rock was when everybody was crooning? Wouldn’t it be sweet if you heard that on a record now?” “What about the Zeppelin wail? We could pull that off.” “I’ve always wanted to do that cliché backwards speaking thing from rock’s devil days. We should bring that back.” “Remember how popular the garage band lo-fi sound was a few years back? We could do that again.” Each addition seems reasonable, until you consider that the ten track album is scarcely longer than half an hour. Ultimately, the Raconteurs seem like a caricature of boy scouts, prepared for situations that could never arise, but technically still “prepared.” The debut disk, Broken Boy Soldiers, is a hodge podge of rock, more old friends hanging out than the focused effort of a supergroup.
Nevertheless, Soldiers has a couple of bona fide hits, particularly in the incredibly addictive “Store Bought Bones” and lead single “Steady As She Goes.” These songs possess the same addictive Benson hooks as several of the other tracks on the disk, but they manage the best balance of White’s rock star style with Benson’s more low key song writing. “Steady As She Goes” offers garage band honesty with the very polished hook, and yes, we are steady now, thank you very much. “Store Bought Bones” is simply a White Stripes song with more band behind it, which allows the break to flourish on the strength of the extra percussion from Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence. This is not to say other songs aren’t deserving of note – the patient and sparse “Together” is one of those songs you’ll start singing along to the second time you hear it, for example – but praising merely good songs when all ten tracks could have been standouts is questionable at best.
Every song on the album is pop rock deserving of a few listens, but the Raconteurs emerged this year as a potential supergroup – deserving doesn’t measure up. “Hands,” “Blue Veins,” and “Broken Boy Soldiers” are good, strong songs, but considering what this record was supposed to do for rock music, they’re the hills of the Midwest compared to the Rockies. Nice, but you know there could be a lot more.
The most disconcerting aspect of reaching the record’s final songs is realizing you had less fun listening to the songs than White and Benson had creating them. Soldiers feels like a sampler of the places the Raconteurs could take us to, but its hard to love the scattershot feeling, even though the band makes some very different songs sound great. Listening to the songs becomes academic, an exercise in identifying influences and figuring out how the Benson-White dynamic played out during the creation process. There’s certainly merit in the whole experience, but Soldiers remains a bit short of Eagle Scout.
Release date: May 16, 2006
Rating: 5.0 / 10
On the web: http://www.theraconteurs.com/
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