red lights


Indie-rock supergroup forms from
the fumes of Midwestern garage rock

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
(V2 Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 28, 2006
The Raconteurs

Review by Tony Bonyata

Indie-rock's first supergroup, The Raconteurs, consists of four musicians that originally emerged from the Midwestern garage rock movement earlier this decade. While singer / guitarist Brendan Benson's resume is loaded with more straight-forward pop references, such as The Kinks, Lennon & McCartney, The Cars and Brian Wilson, the remaining three bandmembers have more direct ties to the gritty sounds that have reverbed out of The Motor City over the last seven years or so. The rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler comes courtesy of the Cincinnati-based band The Greenhornes, while Jack White (leader of The White Stripes and primary catalyst for the rebirth of garage rock) shares vocal, guitar and keyboard duties with Benson.

If an instant, easy-going camaraderie emits from the ten tracks on The Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers debut it shouldn't come as a surprise; all of the members have performed with one another in some form over the years. Both Benson and White have swapped songs - with Benson performing White's tender "You've Got Her In Your Pocket" years before The White Stripes would put it to wax on their 2003 Elephant album, and The White Stripes releasing a version of Benson's "Good To Me" as a B-side a couple of years ago. In addition, both Keeler and Lawrence were in the Do-Whaters - a band led by White for Loretta Lynn's 2004 album Van Lear Rose, while Benson also helped produce The Greenhornes' 2005 East Grand Blues EP.

Broken Boy Soldiers eschews the raw Delta blues, which has influenced much of White's work with The White Stripes, in favor of a more direct brand of pop, complete with latent '70s hard-rock tendencies. Songs such as "Hands," with its pleasing Rubber Soul-era melody and punchy lead guitar, along with the nasally Lennon-esque harmonies that dance atop the otherwise dirgey "Call It A Day," puts White's philosophy of "never trust anyone who doesn't like The Beatles" successfully into motion.

While White's vocal delivery on The Raconteurs' first single, "Steady, As She Goes," sounds reminiscent to The White Stripes, the fully fleshed-out pop-rock arrangement - complete with bass, synthesizer and background vocals, quickly sets it apart. The combination of eerie organ and out-of-control, spiraling lead guitar on "Store Bought Bones" is straight out of Deep Purple's early '70s repertoire, while the heaviness of the Me Decade continues on the song "Level," which mixes a less sludgy Black Sabbath riff with dueling lead guitars and call-and-response vocals between White and Benson.

As the album winds down, a bit of blues does manage to rear its head on the closing track," Blue Veins." But instead of the early Mississippi blues that's held sway on much of White's previous work, this psychedelic-laced number comes off more like Big Brother and The Holding Company than Blind Willie McTell. And that ain't such a bad thing.

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