US - Michigan - Full Moon 119 - 06/11/06
Broken Boy Soldiers
It's bewildering hearing Jack White, the same deranged desperado who in his last character prophetically dressed like the Zorro-esque action hero from V for Vendetta, not using an eight track machine from the fifties to make rock and roll records. Instead, his loyal legions of emo hating, classic rock banshee fans will have to make ends meet with a nearly squeaky clean deliverance of weirdo pop laced with synthesizers and Nirvana guitar choruses. Don't believe the lead single, Broken Boy Soldiers can be an on/off, unfocused, and strangely unchallenging debut from this super group that is being dignified as Detroit's underground rock Justice League.
Many will write how White's new partnership with home town favorite Brendon Benson is a competent distribution of their respective styles: the bluesy psycho country wonderland of White and the intimate, one-man vibrancy of Benson's best known release, 1996's One Mississippi. But it certainly isn't the godsend marriage of brilliant forces that a super band is ever marketed to be. They may be in good regard on stage as writing partners, but there are songs on this record that suffer from one side of the combination. It's comparable to that reality show, Iron Chef, where mismatched professional contestants are given a bizarre assignment in which they bitch and moan to some cockamamie concoction of culinary styles.
At the same time their friends; you'd expect this conflict if they were on they were verge of a breakup, not on their first at bat. On the majority of the ten tracks, each songwriter seems too much, or too little for the other. At some point you have to think, does "Call it a Day" really need those little comments from Jack White's radio shack guitar? Benson's voice coils in the listener on what would've been a normal acoustic killer for his One Mississippi follow-up. As a lukewarm power ballad, it aspires to no would-be expected hard rock climax. Sure it would've been cliché, but there's nothing in the place of it. As with most of Broken Boy's songs, they trickle out in mid verse, almost mid sentence.
They're not unbearable, no more than the obese records of Velvet Revolver or Audioslave. They end on a high note, and once again in mid inspiration. "Blue Veins" is the smoldering delta blues suite that has a good possibility of being a fan favorite. Given those Raconteurs fans might not enjoy any quality of closure in a final track to an equally inconclusive record.
Copyright © 2006 Matthew DeMello