The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers Review
by Travis Becker
If there's a complaint I have, that sticks in regards to the White Stripes, it's that they are painfully minimalist and thereby not all that interesting or diverse. Jack White's "other" group, the Raconteurs solves this problem by and large for me. A more traditional four piece group, fleshed out with keys, extra guitars and even a bass, this group nails what the Garage sound should be in the context of Jack White. The group mixes sixties garage pop with the good old down home blues and pulls it off remarkably well.
White's vocals are about the only thing to link the Raconteurs with his other group, and in the case of their new record, Broken Boy Soldiers, he seems to make an almost conscious effort to make the singing different from his typical White Stripes bleat. The register is higher, but less distorted, creating a cracking falsetto that serves the songs well. There's no "Seven Nation Army" on this record, but some Howlin' Wolf creeps up through the floorboards towards the end of the record and even some pseudo-Disco, faux-sexiness as on, "Level". On other tracks, like "Intimate Secretary" and "Together" guitarist and keyboardist, Brendan Benson, handles some of the vocal duties and employs a more melodic approach.
The beginning of the record almost fools you into thinking that this will be another bare bones, Jack White's got the blues but he can't quite pull it off, type of project. The staccato, chopped out riffs that begin the opener, "Steady as She Goes," signal rough waters ahead, but by the chorus, the sea quiets and the rest of the instruments join the party, while the layered vocals and fuzzed-out guitar add even more depth to the song. The harmonies, or more specifically, the way they sound in the mix will almost make you wonder if the Mamas and Papas have gotten back together and forgotten how to sing on key.
With the buried soloing and interesting mix of acoustic and electric sounds, the record's closest touchstone may be Led Zeppelin III. It's not a Led Zeppelin record, but it sort of sounds like it could be. Certainly not as muscular, especially in the rhythm section, but not as far off as you might think. Listen to the end of "Hands" and you'll swear it's a Jimmy Page bridge. The title track sounds a bit like Heart with White's way- up-there vocals but without the big payoff at the end.
As someone, who is not in general, a fan of Jack White and his various Garagey deconstructions, whether with his sister or on his ill-advised solo records, I found the Raconteurs pretty engaging. A raconteur is defined as one who is good at telling anecdotes. An apt name, it is to be supposed. Each song, tells a little story, just like the Blues.
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