It may be easy to write off the debut album by The Raconteurs solely for the fact that Jack White is in the band. If people go into the album with the thought of it has the guy from the White Stripes, then they won’t find anything different or great here. But if you can disconnect that association you will find a really great album. It will please White Stripes, country blues and rock fans alike. There is something for everyone on this album.
The ever popular “Steady as She Goes” starts us off. Each instrument comes in one at a time as the songs starts: first the drums, then the grooving bass line and finally the cool guitar riff as the vocals alternate between White and Benson. The song has a very vintage feel to it. Something about the music sounds really raw and unclean. It sounds as if every member of the band was in the same room when recording, rather than recording their parts separately. As always the guitar playing is great. There is a wicked looping solo during the bridge that will leave you dizzy. This is a song that grabs your attention and is one of the best songs on the album.
Another great track is the dark “Blue Veins.” The blues influence leaks from this track as Jack sings and screeches throughout the song. It’s a slow, somber track that has blues inspired riffs providing the music. It starts out with music being played backwards for the intro and this element returns for the bridge of the song where the last verse is played in reverse before White sings it in the the proper way. This gives the song a haunting tone. It’s eerie, but it’s really cool too.
Each song is bustling with a flawless mix of blues and country music, whether it be in the vocals or the music itself. Some songs, such as “Broken Boy Soldier” have a very down home country feeling, with banjos, cow bells, and country twangs providing the music. Other songs like “Blue Veins” are strictly blues inspired with tortured vocals, sliding riffs, and unhinged solos. These two genres take over the album. Sometimes the influence will take over the entire song, other times it’s small things that have these elements, such as the style of the vocals or the guitar. The influence of these genres really give the whole album a vintage Southern feeling, but still manages to be catchy.
The entire album feels very raw. When listening to it you get the feeling that this was made by four guys sitting in a basement messing around with their instruments. The album is not over polished, it doesn’t sound clean, and it sounds like there were no pro-tools tweaking vocals or the music. And I don’t say this as a negative thing. If anything it really fits the songs, which usually sound rough and rugged. It has a DIY feeling to it, as if the guys did every aspect of the album themselves including pressing it. This vintage, unclean tone really gives the album some charm. It’s a nice break from listening to music that is over polished and obviously has a lot of studio magic affecting it. Anyone who enjoys the rough side of music will appreciate this aspect.
All the songs are great with some standout tracks being “Broken Boy Soldier,” “Blue Veins” and the rock-infused “Level.” Each song is filled with great energy, raw music and thoughtful vocals. What makes the vocals so great is that White doesn’t take them over. In some songs Benson and White alternate, with White hitting the higher notes. This happens in tracks like “Level” and “Hands” and it can really give the song an oldies feel to it. Sometimes it makes the songs have a 60s/70s feel. Other songs one or the other vocalist sings the entire tracks and this method really works. Benson’s voice is a bit sweeter and calmer, so he sings on the slower tracks like “Together.” Jack’s voice is higher and more unrestrained and he provides the vocals for the faster, wilder tracks like “Broken Boy Soldier.” Either way both vocalist’s talent is proudly on display here.
Overall this album gets 8/10. This is a raw album, filled with great blues and country inspired tunes. Though Jack White is the most well known musician in the band he doesn’t hog the spotlight. In every song each player gets a chance to show off his skill with bass, drums, or vocals. For anyone who thinks The Raconteurs is just the White Stripes with bass and all guys really needs to hear this album. The music feels dirtier and more vintage than any of the Stripes material. Unfortunately, the future of this band is unsure. All we can do is hope that they will make more great music in the near future.