The Raconteurs’ “Broken Boy Soldiers” is the best classic rock album to come out this year, a fact that is its blessing and its curse.
The band consists of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler – the rhythm section for Cincinnati roots rockers the Greenhornes – power-pop craftsman Brendan Benson and, most notoriously, the White Stripes’ singer/guitarist/everything-but-the-drums man Jack White.
Benson and White teamed up to write all the album’s songs. They let their retro proclivities guide them, producing tracks that sound like they would fit in nicely on the radio between cuts by Black Sabbath and Cream.
But therein lies the problem: Even if you find yourself tapping your toes and nodding your head to the distorted riffs and funky 4:4 grooves in these songs (and you will), you’ll be reminded of familiar melodies.
Whether it’s Jack White sounding like the illegitimate lovechild of Geddy Lee and Robert Plant on the album’s title track, or the muscular acoustic guitar of “Together” that sounds like something Pete Townshend would do, nothing here really is fresh.
Not that this should take away too much from the album. What it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in craftsmanship. Maybe the riffs do sound a bit recycled, but that doesn’t make them stick in your head any less.
Benson and White share a common secret – both mine the past, and both mine only the best of the past. They’re like DJs, in their own way, recycling the music of others while putting their own individual stamp on it.
Of course, this album isn’t totally without its unique listening pleasures, and it’s a nice change of pace to hear White play with a full rock ‘n’ roll band rather than receiving his sole accompaniment from Meg White’s minimal stomp. Given the late signs that he’s grown beyond the Stripes’ primitive palette, this album, which is primarily a nod to the past, might also be a sneak peek at the future.