The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
It's been a long time coming. Word of The Raconteurs first popped up early last year with various mutterings amongst the music press hinting at a proposed 'supergroup' involving best buds Jack White and Brendan Benson. Eventually, these whisperings developed into a confirmation that the two tunesmiths would indeed be hooking up, joined by Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, the rhythm section from Cincinatti band The Greenhornes. The boys got together whenever they could, their separate projects taking up much of their schedule - a few of you may have heard of Glastonbury-headlining garage-thrash duo The White Stripes? Fans finally got a taste of their new favourite band with the release of Steady, As She Goes last month, as well as a sprinkling of live dates that previewed the album. Those not lucky enough to have caught the band in action, though, can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. It's here. And it's big...
With Broken Boy Soldiers clocking in at a lean 33 minutes, you might scoff at this declaration. However, despite its short running time, the debut from these soldiers is certainly worth the wait. Blistering first single Steady, As She Goes opens the album with its robot-synth grunge but no one track here sounds alike, the ten Benson/White-penned tracks showing more eclecticism than ten lengthier albums might. The two songs that sound most similar are the Benson-led ballads Together and Call It A Day, both displaying the honey-thick melodies that make Benson's solo work such a joy. Together is a particular highlight, a bittersweet lullaby that has an imploring Benson singing "You want everything to be just like/The stories that you read but never write". As one would expect, Jack White's presence is also felt, never more so than on the exceptional title track where White howls away like a demented Robert Plant atop a Middle Eastern-tinged backdrop. The funky blues-rock of Level recalls his Stripes work, whilst eerie closer Blue Veins (complete with piano and vocal effects) wouldn't have felt out of place on Get Behind Me Satan.
The overall sound of the band isn't a mishmash of previous glories, however. Instead, it is the sound of four buddies having a blast making music together. The dual vocals, best demonstrated on the call-response structured Level, work well and never seem indulgent, something which can also be said of the moments where the guitars riff off each other, as on the horrifically good Store Bought Bones. The presence of bass is felt, especially on Blue Veins where Lawrence's guitar is suitably brooding. Meanwhile, Keeler's contribution is a tighter and cleaner alternative to Meg White's more haphazardous approach.
All in all, whether on the psychedelic-flavoured Intimate Secretary or '70s soft-rock of Hands, The Raconteurs sound well and truly like a band. The album's only flaw is the aforementioned zippy length, yet I'd rather have this short masterpiece in place of a longer and more muddled affair. I'm sure we won't have to wait too long before album number two, though, as this offering will undoubtedly (and deservedly) be a huge success.