Does it count as a supergroup if only one member is famous? Jack White probably doesn't care: His attitude toward his long-in-the-works side project The Raconteurs seems to be happily democratic—a major difference from his role as The White Stripes' benevolent dictator. Along with singer-songwriter Brendan Benson—an ace in his own right, just one who hasn't come near White Stripes-sized success—and a rhythm section swiped from Cincinnati band The Greenhornes, White has birthed Broken Boy Soldiers, a debut album that both benefits and suffers from a casual, depressurized vibe.
The downside to jamming with your friends: You may not feel the desire—or find the nerve—to come up with the same kind of magically strange crossover songs that defined your rise in the first place. The upside: You might casually run into something made better by the fact that you didn't labor over it. "Steady, As She Goes," Broken Boy Soldiers' first track, was apparently the first that White and Benson wrote together, which makes sense: A strong, simple statement of purpose, it's everything a banged-out rock song should be. Along with the proggy "Store Bought Bones," it encapsulates The Raconteurs' finest bits: It's sonically steady by design, reaching for simplicity and enjoying its capture.
Within its own little garage, the album succeeds completely, but in the big picture, Broken Boy Soldiers never feels especially important. There are some fair songs ("Together," with Benson on lead vocals), several good ones ("Intimate Secretary"), and just a couple that approach greatness (the terrifically Zeppelin-esque "Broken Boy Soldier"), but none move mountains, or even try. The Raconteurs present Jack White in a garage-rock band instead of Jack White as a garage-rock band, which makes a significant difference. White Stripes fans will have no reason not to love Broken Boy Soldiers—they may just love it a bit less than White's steadier gig.