raconteurs disk 88 298.
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Broken Boy Soldiers
What started out as a busman's holiday for White Stripes' mastermind Jack White has turned into one of the more enjoyable retro-rock offerings of the year.
The Raconteurs finds the versatile White teaming up with under-the-radar indie popster Brendan Benson and the rhythm section of another indie band, the Greenhornes, to create an appealing mix of crunchy Seventies guitar riffs and melodic power pop stylings. The resulting album sounds sort of like Bad Company meets Weezer.
There's more garage rock spirit here than there is originality - the first notes of opening track "Steady As She Goes" are lifted directly from Joe Jackson's "Is She Going Out With Him," but a rousing chorus that sounds like a roaring jet makes up for it.
And nods to Black Sabbath-style chording and White's Ozzy-meets-Geddy Lee vocals on the title song come across more as irreverent tributes to musical inspirations than as blatant ripoffs.
White's blustery rocking complements the more poppy style of Benson, whose own songs focus more on harmonies and craft. On delicious psychedelic pop number "Hands" and the relatively gentle but quirky ballads "Together" and "Call It a Day," the band appears to be on the cusp of defining its own appealing sound.
You might be able to live without the hippie holdover "Yellow Sun," which sounds like its performers might have been sitting in the sun's rays too long, but most of Broken Boy Soldiers is pleasant fun.
My only complaint with the album is that it's a relatively stingy offering of only 10 songs - the entire collection is over in a little more than 30 minutes. It's unclear artistically whether there's a need for an American version of Jet, but the public has voiced its opinion commercially, launching this album into the Billboard Top 10. If you want to get your Seventies on, search no further.
Surely be the oddest pop music you're likely to hear this year, the brother and sister duo Fiery Furnaces (real names: Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger) sound like a vaudeville act on acid.
Eccentric almost to a fault, the songs on the twosome's Bitter Tea jump schizophrenically from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to casio and drum machine marches to Kate Bush-like passages - sometimes all within a single song. You could swear a hyperactive fringe music fan was changing the dial every 30 seconds, with tempo, mood and instrumentation constantly evolving and making reappearances.
The playful, challenging spirit of Frank Zappa lives on in keyboard-based song suites like "In My Little Thatched Hut, I'm in No Mood, Black-Hearted Boy" and "Teach Me Sweetheart, I'm Waiting to Know."
The Friedbergers have become indie darlings with their previous offerings, and with its offbeat music and lyrics, this album should only add to their reputation - for those brave enough to take a taste of Bitter Tea.
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