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The Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldiers” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

“Remember a time when all was not fine and up from the dingy sewers came four lousy thieves who flourished like trees behold The Raconteurs.” Or so reads the CD cover from the inaugural release from this Detroit-based band entitled Broken Boy Soldiers. The group is a culmination of Detroit musicians, including solo artist Brendan Benson and White Stripes front man Jack White, along with bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler from the Cincinnati-based band The Greenhornes. Don’t go throwing around “super-group” however as the band stresses that it’s simply “a new band made up of old friends.”

How fitting that the first song (and subsequent single) on the album, “Steady As She Goes,” was written on a whim, by a few friends just hanging out. The Benson & White written tune encompasses the basis for the group, being that of an alternate inspirational outlet. As the band came together, and songs were written, something unique happened along the way: The Raconteurs went from a side-project to a full-steam-ahead all-consuming band. And oh, how it shows.

The first Raconteurs track, “Steady As She Goes,” is a sonic presentation of things to come; just as much musically as lyrically. The song incorporates a theme of curious love hindered by uncertainty and external factors. Love is an insane thing at times as “no matter what you do, you’ll always feel as though you tripped and fell.” The lyrics aren’t overly simplified for sake of drab poeticism, however, but like much of the album, out of necessity. As “Hands” follows these sentiments it becomes clear that the purpose isn’t to lyrically dazzle, but present universal emotions in a way that can be wholeheartedly enjoyed.

What makes the album so powerful isn’t merely the inclusive lyrics that allow the listener to identify with any and all feelings expressed, but the absolutely amazing sounds that accompany them. Broken Boy Soldiers starts as any perfect rock album should, with an explosion; which fails to fade off. With the aforementioned “Hands,” “Broken Boy Soldier” and “Intimate Secretary” the album doesn’t allow even a second for you to catch your breath. It should be made a point, however, that the grandeur to the album isn’t found merely in the booming, explosive tracks, but in those which subtly arouse the senses. “Together” is an oddly funny track along these lines. The lyrics present step by step instructions to the perfect relationship, and the slow, almost funky organ gives it a certain “Sunday morning love” kind of feel. Whatever a Sunday morning love is exactly, I don’t know, just go with it.

“Level” falls back into the distorted, shockingly good rock that lets the band combine its members’ talents. It simply allows the sounds to ooze together without losing sight of any member’s individual talent. “Store Bought Bones” shreds through a seductive guitar solo backed by some sort of mutated, bottlenecked Detroit blues. A measure of the album can be found in how the tracks that seem to flow together the best are the furthest from each other on the album. The poppy, bouncy “Yellow Sun” follows “Store Bought Bones” and shows what exactly you’re dealing with when you listen to the band. The Raconteurs might not be a super-group, it might have started as merely a few friends having fun, and its inception might have not even been taken all that seriously. What resulted however is one of the most concise, all encompassing rock albums that has been released for some time.