To borrow an idea from sporting parlance, at least five of the songs on The Raconteurs' debut 'Broken Boy Soldiers' would walk onto any rock album of the last 20 years.
'Steady as She Goes', 'Hands', 'Broken Boy Soldiers', 'Intimate Secretary' and 'Level' are all tight, melodious and catchy-as-hell. For any other band, this would be a bravura start.
But such a start is to be expected of a band made up of such stellar talents (they are led by Jack White and Brendan Benson), and so one tends to focus overly on the many dull moments that The Raconteurs serve up.
Even worse, the listener's expectations have been set that little bit higher for The Raconteurs than for other bands. And the band itself seems to be partly responsible, since White and Benson claim that they combined their considerable songwriting talents "in an attic in the middle of hot summer... and wrote a song that truly inspired them". While that song, 'Steady as She Goes', is a very good rock song, it's some way short of inspirational.
Indeed, the whole Raconteurs mystique seems to be completely overblown. Even the band's name makes a claim that is simply not delivered on. As the record company claims, "a raconteur is, by definition, a deft storyteller." No genuinely deft storyteller, though, would dream of serving up either "you and me forever/we belong together/and we'll always endeavour/throughout any type of weather" or "this ringing in my ears won't stop/I've got a red Japanese tea-pot/I've got a pen but I lost the top/I've got so many things that you haven't got."
The Raconteurs are clearly not the rock 'n' roll bards they wish us to believe they are. And, though rock music has always revelled in the inane, if they want us to believe they are a bunch of travelling troubadours with guitars in their hands and poetry in their veins they'll need to do better than that.
Even so, this album is definitely worth a listen. The problem is that while it will easily sit into the ranks of the best rock albums of the last five years, the listener will be nagged by constant thoughts that it should have been something more.
Barry J Whyte