The Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers

The Raconteurs are early on to this, which could be one of the emerging trends of 2006: the rebirth of rock in indie music.

The Raconteurs

Broken Boy Soldiers

Label: Third Man
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
UK Release Date: 2006-05-15

The Raconteurs are early on to this, which could be one of the emerging trends of 2006: the rebirth of rock in indie music. I think it was after a Wolfmother concert my friend Alan and I realised again how appealing straight-out, no-pretensions rock can be. You know, the kind of band that dedicates every song in their set to "the ladies" (as Eagles of Death Metal did opening for the Strokes in New York (brilliant)). In the face of a fierce, fierce riff, who needs irony or '80s dance beats?

As far as indie rock goes, the Raconteurs count as something of a supergroup, I reckon: Brendan Benson from Brendan Benson on guitars/vocals/keys; Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler from the Greenhornes on bass and drums; and Jack White from, yeah, the White Stripes filling the same duties (different times) as Benson. The story of their formation goes something like this: friends Benson and White wrote this tune that Benson thought was just too good to give to White for the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan album. The song led to the creation of a band, and the band an album. The album is Broken Boy Soldiers, the Raconteurs' blog-hyped debut.

The song that started it all is "Steady as She Goes". It kicks off Broken Boy Soldiers, and it's surely the garage rock anthem of the year: the year's "C'mon C'mon" or "Seven Nation Army", with a chorus that explodes out of the fabric of the song, and a fuller sound that helps fill out White's reedy voice. Well, "Steady as She Goes" gives a bit of an inaccurate representation of the Raconteurs' songs, since it's more or less a White Stripes song plus bass. So, what do they sound like? Simply: garage-tinged/power-pop/rock 'n' roll, the kind of straightforward verse-chorus-bridge songs that do well on commercial radio.

If only the rest of the album were as good as the lead single. Of course it's a natural thought that if a band has formed on the back of a single song, the other nine songs on their CD will have a difficult time living up.

The Raconteurs come closest when they just let loose, have fun with classic riffs and melodies. "Hands" opens with a classic hard-rock AC/DC riff, before dropping into a pop melody as unapologetic as a Foo Fighters single. "Broken Boy Soldiers" sounds like Wolfmother when they sound like the White Stripes. With more substantial, hollow cowbell percussion, a sawn bass drone, and a screaming prankster-persona reminiscent of Jack Black, the song is all gleeful celebration. "Level" has a bluesy back-and-forth between Benson and White and a killer riff.

Some of the genre experiments in the disc's second half don't work so well. Aforementioned "Yellow Sun" is a kind of country-influenced Shins knock-off, all sunny acoustics without the existential observation. "Store Bought Bones" flirts with a heavier, industrial-blues guitar riff with a chorus stuttering with distortion, that just chases itself in circles.

The Raconteurs are certainly not a Jack White project alone. Benson's conversational, conventional songwriting influence is most clearly on the softer tracks, like "Together" and "Call It a Day". The former, with its acoustic guitar, syrupy keys and slow-jam-ready melody could immediately bring out calls of "Good Riddance", but it's attractive enough, in a soft-rock way. "Call It a Day" is much more successful -- one of the album highlights, full of sweet resignation. But most of the time (and in fact throughout the album as a whole) the lyrics don't rise above rock cliché. It's this simplicity, combined with a conceit of these "rogues" who make up the band that most rings false, that warns us however solid these songs, the whole exercise still smacks of marketing sheen.

What I'm saying, then, is that this really isn't no-holds-barred rock; it's a kind of market-driven cash-in. But these derivative songs grow on you, and as long as they bring the rock in the live setting, they're worthy of the attention they will no doubt receive, due to their star singer. The extent to which this is taken up by the radio-listening public will predict the extent to which 2006 will be a 'rock' (rather than '80s revival' or 'dance rock') flagship year.

One final thing: regardless of what you think of the band, be sure to check out their website. I won't ruin it, except to say -- ingenious.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.