Broken Boy Soldiers
Third Man Recordings/V2 Records, 2006
REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/26/2006
Anyone remember The Darkness? A few years ago, the Brits in spandex catsuits exploded onto the scene with a sound entirely too reminiscent of Queen/AC/DC/Thin Lizzy for anyone to take them seriously for more than an album. Which is why their sophomore release seemed to crash and burn when it was released a few years later.
That being said, The Raconteurs are definitely not The Darkness. Instead of being content to cop directly from their predecessors, they've instead taken elements from a myriad of 70s rock giants to seamlessly craft their own sound. And from the first spin of Broken Boy Soldiers, The Raconteurs (formed one day in the summer by Jack White, of White Stripes fame, and Brendan Benson, both on guitars and vocals) immediately transport you back into Led Zeppelin's heyday.
Opening the album is the slow burning "Steady, As She Goes." Laden with distinctive hooks and a stick-in-your-head chorus, the song is a lament to adulthood and settling down; lines like "Your friends have shown a kink in the single life, you've had too much to think, now you need a wife" seem even more appropriate considering White's recent marriage and child. This is the type of track you almost wish would become this summer's anthem, overplaying aside, instead of the typical rap duos or random pop stars ruling charts and airwaves again.
Next up is "Hands," offering a bluesy feel with definite single potential in its catchy chorus, harmonies and guitar hooks that I'm sure Queen's Brian May would've loved to come up with.
"Broken Boy Soldier" is easily the most memorable track, leading in with a distinctive, almost-Middle Eastern guitar solo and continuing with White channeling Robert Plant as he wails the song's refrain, "I'm child, then man, then child again." That delivery is part of what makes the song the album's peak; kudos to White for straining his vocal chords.
White and Benson then join up on the melodic ballad "Together," where the two share vocal duties. I think that the reason this album largely succeeds is that same interplay between the band; the atmosphere on this disc is always natural, just a group of friends coming together to create an album, even if said album is one of the most anticipated rock debuts this year. Another highlight is "Store Bought Bones," the B-side to "Steady, As She Goes," which is a two-minute, quick punch of a track, highlighting rapid-fire guitar and drummer Patrick Keeler of the Greenhornes on top of an ever-changing drumbeat.
The band returns to playing the blues on the album's closer, "Blue Veins," which is probably the closest to White Stripes material as this disc has. With solid bass and a crunching guitar riff reminiscent of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," the real standout of the song is its section of backwards lyrics, which assures your focus is kept right up until the end.
It's an end that comes entirely too quickly, though, which is my major gripe with the album -- it's barely a half hour long! So even though The Raconteurs are adamant about not being termed a supergroup, just one listen to this album proves why the label's being thrown around so frequently -- whether you're a White Stripes fan or just love classic rock, Broken Boy Soldiers is for you.