The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

Don’t call it a super group. Don’t call it Jack White’s new band. Don’t call it the White Stripes with bass. And you better not call it a side-project. What you can call it is new. What you can call it is refreshing. What you can call it is equal. What you can call it is masterful. And, what you can most definitely call it is quality.

The Raconteurs started out as nothing more than two old pals banging around trying to write a song, and has ended up a communal band that is surging in popularity, and has produced one heck of a fantastic record. The two fellows it began with are, as you probably know, Brendan Benson, and Jack White. Both had been friends for a long while, and during an impromptu jam session, the tune “Steady, As She Goes” was born. Things snowballed from their, eventually adding members Jack (Little Jack) Lawrence on bass guitar, and Patrick Keller on drums. Both Keller and Lawrence are members of the band The Greenhornes. Benson started out as an acclaimed solo singer/songwriter, and Jack White earned his stripes in a way that I’m sure we are all already aware of.

The boys of The Raconteurs are taking an amazingly reserved approach to marketing with this band, with White doing everything he can to stress the fact that he’s only one of the four; and in no way the leader of the group. Equal attention is required for all members in interviews; and in almost every press photo released, White is found hanging onto the sides of the others, or merely drifting in the background. The move is, obviously, to try and have The Raconteurs judged upon their own merits, just as they would be if the members had no previous fame at all on their resumes. It’s astoundingly noble, and I think it works ridiculously well. This doesn’t feel like the White Stripes, or sound like the White Stripes; because it isn’t the White Stripes. The song writing doesn’t even sound like the ‘Stripes, with Benson’s signature wit and pop-sensibilities prevalent throughout. Benson brings the brains, and Lawrence, White, and Keller bring the heart. It’s a deadly combination that succeeds in spades.

Don’t be fooled by “Steady, As She Goes” into thinking that Broken Boy Soldiers is all rollicking rock and roll, and slick guitar licks. Benson and White split vocal duties throughout (though their voices mesh so well that it gets tough to tell the differences at times), and many of the songs sound more like Benson than White. Dirty, lovely power-pop draped in a deep appreciation for classic rock, and an ever-present charm that’s there throughout. Apart from “Steady, As She Goes,” other highlights include the ridiculously good “Together,” and the bewildering golden stumble of a title track “Broken Boy Soldiers.” Every song just sounds so different, so varied, and can’t help but show the unwavering versatility these four musicians possess when put together, with no more aspiration than to just write good songs.

Broken Boy Soldiers is one of the greatest dirty indie pop records to hit shelves in ages. After just one listen to this record, you would be hard-pressed to ever call it a side-project. It’s just so good that it must have required the full devotion of attention from all members involved. If The Raconteurs were comprised of a bunch of nobodies, they would still be the hottest little band tearing up the scene.

(V2 Records)