CD Review of Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs

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Broken Boy Soldiers
starstarstarno starno star Label: V2 Records
Released: 2006
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A quick search on divulged the following definition for raconteur: One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit.

These Raconteurs are four old friends who’ve enjoyed varying degrees of success and notoriety in the music biz yet never recorded formally together. Jack White – taking a little time away from the White Stripes – and Brendan Benson are the anecdote-writing architects behind Broken Boy Soldiers. The sound is nothing too far-fetched. The themes won’t challenge a thinking man. It’s guitars, bass, keys, and drums, for God’s sake, and they’re not playing anything too fast or boringly slow. Sure, a few songs could be White Stripes outtakes, but a couple others sound like Rubber Soul-era Beatles, and at least one plagiarizes Black Sabbath.

With all said influences stacked up, however, one could argue that these 10 songs have too little in common. Maybe there are actually too many influences, too much historic rock n’ roll ground attempting to be surveyed? “Steady as She Goes” is as straight-forward and no-bullshit as it gets. In fact, it was this opening track, etched up with White’s ragged guitar and catchy-as-hell chorus, which laid the initial groundwork for the Raconteurs’ greater project. Another highlight, “Hands,” oozes with ‘70s nostalgia, charged with an ELO-like wall of fuzz and an “Ooh, ooh, ooh” melody straight from the Partridge Family manual.

The title track remains ingrained in the ‘70s but opts for an acid-induced Iron Butterfly path. Surprisingly, they keep it to a three-minute drill, as it could have easily morphed into something to rival “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Points start getting deducted and the album pulls apart midway through, when a sleepy piano shuffle (“Together”) gives way to a less-than-memorable experiment in psychedelia (“Level”) and an eerie Goth rock trip called “Store Bought Bones.” The later recalls Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun” (not a good thing), and what the hell is up with “Blue Veins”?

Whether the Raconteurs are a recurring dream or a one-semi-hit wonder, Jack White can take pride in knowing this vacation was fairly well spent. It seems he burned a few months hanging out and playing with friends, tipping their musical hats to some of their favorite records of old. More than anything, though, Broken Boy Soldiers will make you want to pull out White Blood Cells and crank “Hotel Yorba” for all it’s worth. And that’s okay, too.

~Red Rocker