For a long time now, I�ve been stuck between a rock and a hard place. You see, I�ve heard a lot of good things about the White Stripes
. Most of these things revolve around the enigmatic face of that particularl duo, front-man/swingman musician, Jack White. I�ve read articles, upon articles about this man. I�ve even seen him share the cover of Guitar World
(February 2006) with the immortal Jimmy Page. Throughout all this, Mr. White has proven to be a most intriguing character. His style, personality, and views have always impressed me. In short, he seems like the kind of fellow that I would like. I just have one slight problem: I abhor the White Stripes. Believe me, I�ve given them plenty of chances. I�ve purchased their albums, and given the repeated listens. However, I just can�t find any connection between me and the music. In spite of this fact, I have had an unwavering desire to experience the �wonder� that is Jack White. Fortunately for me, his latest side-project, the Raconteurs have given me an excellent shot to kindle some love for this guy. And you know what? I�ve rarely found myself more impressed.
First of all, what is a raconteur? Well, according to Webster�s, it�s �one who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit.� Sounds to me like Mr. White and his cohorts want to tell a story with their music. Oh, while we�re on the subject of cohorts, I�m going to steal the spotlight from White for a little while. The Raconteurs are super group of sorts. They won�t admit it, stating that they are merely a �new band made up of old friends.� Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know the true story. Let�s just look at the members: We�ve got Brendan Benson, a famous Detroit musician; as well as Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes
. Okay, so they�re all old buddies from the Motor City garage rock scene. That doesn�t change the fact that the Raconteurs are as super as any other group to ever precede them.
Anyway, let�s get back to the music. Right, so Broken Boy Soldiers
is one hell of an album. I don�t often find myself this blown away by music that I pick up with such cautious enthusiasm. Especially when that enthusiasm stems from an idiotic need to prove to myself that Jack White can, in fact, make good music. Of course, I recognize, as well as acknowledge the fact that the Raconteurs do not equal Jack White, but I�m just so impressed that I�ll just stress the fact that I�m�impressed (brilliant word choice, no?). Experimental and edgy, Broken Boy Soldiers
blends genres as wide ranging as classic blues and progressive rock together, and the result is coherent, simple, and ultimately effective.
�Steady, as She Goes,� the album�s first track, showcases a good sample of what Broken Boy Soldiers
has to offer. And I�m pretty sure I�ve made it clear that�s an awful lot. Catchy and full of hooks, yet still retaining a sense of progression, �Steady, as She Goes� by far and away the best way the Raconteurs could have opened their debut. We continue on with �Hands,� which features the vocal work of Brendan Benson (White and Benson continue to tag-time throughout the album, with refreshingly surprising results). Again, well-written, catchy lyrics overlay fantastic instrumentation. The first two tracks really show that as musicians, the Raconteurs have chops. The title track is third in line. Fantastic from beginning to end, �Broken Boy Soldier� features smooth drumming and an almost Middle-Eastern guitar sound. Throw in White�s anguished wail, and you�ve got yourself a song that will be playing on �repeat� in your head for a good six or seven hours.
�Intimate Secretary� doesn�t quite know what to do with itself. Is it soft and melodic? Or is it completely out there? Well, I�m not going to judge, so I�ll say it�s slightly in-between. Then again, one look at the lyrics sheet, and you may be more inclined towards the latter of those two descriptions. �Intimate Secretary� shows off some serious songwriting talent, and should impress even the most avid music aficionados. Next up, we have the smooth sounds of �Together.� Broken Boy Soldiers
begins to hit its stride with this one. Melody leaks from every pore of this song, almost as if it was relaxation-incarnate. I may just like this one a little too much, but I�d say it�s one of the best of these cuts. And given the quality of this album, that�s saying something. �Level� continues the laid-back mood, but adds a sense of eclectic-ness to the mix. Fantastic guitar work would be the highlight of this song. Oh, the lyrics are also quite nice. All in all, �Level� has a very bluesy, very �level� feel to it.
�Store Bought Bones� certainly wakes us up from the fever-dream that Broken Boy Soldiers
has put us in. Much faster and louder than its direct predecessors, it�s a welcome change of pace. Predictably rhyming lyrics have you singing along even before the music has disclosed the next set of words. Continuing down the winding road that is Broken Boy Soldiers
, we arrive at �Yellow Sun.� It�s a safe bet to assume that the Raconteurs were shooting for a classic rock style with this one. Personally, I�d say it�s fairly similar to Revolver
. However, I welcome everyone to draw their own conclusions (mostly because I don�t want a hail of fan boys raining fire and brimstone down upon me). �Call It a Day� has a very lazy feel to it. It�s probably just the lyrics, but the melody certainly doesn�t help much. You could probably fall asleep listening to this one (I almost did; I�ll swear that this damn song was written by the Raconteurs in collaboration with the world�s only genuine hypnotist).
Ah, we�ve reached the finale; the curiosity that is �Blue Veins.� Just as �Steady, as She Goes� was the perfect intro for the album, the alt-rock/blues fusion (I think I just made that up) that is �Blue Veins� is the perfect way to end it. Slow, steady, and full of personality, I�d have to say that some of the best lyrics that the Raconteurs has came up with are featured on this track. As goes through �mood� changes from sadness to anger, we�ve been left with an excellent song, that is perhaps one of the best on this album.
Well, I�m very happy right about now. I�ve finally found some of Jack White�s work to be enjoyable. And hell, I didn�t just enjoy it, I�ve grown infatuated with it. Broken Boy Soldiers
shows incredible potential for the Raconteurs, with very little downside. If I had to say there was something that detracts from this album�s brilliance, I�d say it�s the fact that many of the songs follow an all-too-similar pattern. However, the pattern work, and Jack White has been quoted in several reviews as saying that he doesn�t fix what isn�t broken. Well, the Raconteurs sure aren�t broken, and I wouldn�t be surprised if they soon overtake the White Stripes in the eyes of Jack White fans everywhere. I know that it�s already that way with this humble reviewer.