When Jack White and Brendan Benson paired up to form their latest side project, the Raconteurs, it was hard to know what to expect: dirty blues rocker meets a power-pop geek and a few uninspired loud-rock wannabes from Cincinnati (Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence from the Greenhornes). Sadly for anyone who gives a damn about the current state of music, the ten underdeveloped songs on Broken Boy Soldiers almost always fall short. There’s plenty of potential here; the band just didn’t take enough time to reach it.
All of the tracks here are single-length, but “Steady, As She Goes,” the debut single and apparently the first song penned by White and Benson for this project, is the only one that comes close to being strong enough for that role. That song’s excessive power chords scream mediocre, making it a perfect fit for the radio waves.
“Hands” kicks off radiantly, acting on quintessential pop tendencies, but by the end it’s lost its direction. “Broken Boy Soldiers” crosses over somewhere into raunchy, dark guitar riffs that compete with Wolfmother in unoriginality. Thank you, Jack White, for giving us all something to listen to that we’ve heard countless times already.
“Intimate Secretary” tries to explore the band’s inclination toward the psychedelic, but it’s the elementary lyrics that come to the forefront: “I’ve got a rabbit; it likes to hop/ I’ve got a girl; she likes to shop/ The other foot looks like it won’t drop/ I had an uncle, and he got shot.” By the time Broken Boy Soldier closes with the Houses of the Holy rip-off that is “Blue Veins,” I’ve lost count how many cheap imitations of classic-rock I’ve heard on the album.
Frankly, it almost feels like these four guys got together, threw on some of their favorite late-’60s albums to emulate, and came out two weeks later with Broken Boy Soldiers. The songwriting is bland and the production is overdone — the perfect formula for a second-rate album. If White and Benson try to pull off this little fiasco again, they should remember the most important element to a great album: originality. The Raconteurs didn’t even come close to that with Broken Boy Soldiers.
“Steady, As She Goes” video