On the racks: May 16, 2006

T Bone and the Raconteurs show their roots
By MATT ASHARE  |  May 16, 2006

The Raconteurs

It’s been over a decade since T. Bone Burnett last released a solo album. But if the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Texas-bred guitarist has been far from idle since Criminal Under My Own Hat came out in ’92. He took home four Grammys for his work on the soundtrack the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?. His 1986 collaboration with Elvis Costello, King of America, was reissued in expanded form by Rhino in April. (Later this year, you’ll have the pleasure of hearing Sean Penn sing a Burnett/Costello tune in the eagerly anticipated remake of All the King’s Men.) And most recently, Burnett oversaw the soundtrack to the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. But this week belongs to T Bone the solo artist: not only has Legacy put together a deluxe two-disc retrospective of his best work, but Burnett’s finally finished work on a new album, The True False Identity, which is coming out on his own Sony imprint DMZ. It’s a departure for the usually buttoned up (i.e., boring) Burnett, in that it leaves plenty of room for Marc Ribot’s raw guitar heroics and has a looser, less inhibited feel than much of the solo work collected on Twenty Twenty: The Essential T-Bone Burnett.

Remember when White Stripes toured with a revolving cast of openers last year? Soon after the tour, Jack White headed into the studio sans Meg, instead inviting some of those openers to collaborate with him on an album’s worth of material. Singer-guitarist Brendan Benson became White’s songwriting partner, and, with Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence from the Greenhornes filling in as the rhythm section, the Raconteurs were born. Their V2 debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, finds White sharing singing, songwriting, and lead guitar duties with Benson on songs that are a little less bluesy than White Stripes. And, at least on the lead single “Steady As She Goes,” the band also takes a more traditional approach to pop hooks than Jack’s usual stuff. 

You have to admire the sheer chutzpah it took back in 1999 for Radio 4 to adopt that name in homage to their most easily-identifiable forerunners — Gang of Four. Then again, who knew that four albums into their careers, a post-punk Brooklyn dance-punk band would still be competing with a reunited Gang of Four for your affection? Now a five piece, Radio 4 stick to their guns on their new Enemies Like This (Astralwerks), keeping their streak of socio-political awareness alive in the title track. Just like their mentors, they’ve gotten better at laying down bass-heavy grooves. And it doesn’t hurt that Hot Chip and the DFA are already lined up for the remixes.

Reprise’s heavily-hyped answer to the post-punk revival has been waiting around since 2001 for someone to notice frontman Jeff Tucker’s remarkable ability to sound like a wounded Robert Smith on one track and a proud Bono on the next. Backed by players well schooled in the guitar atmospherics of U2 and the nervous melodicism of the Cure, LA’s Rock Kills Kid now sound ready to conquer the world, or at least live up to the buzz. How much cash is invested in these guys being this year’s Killers? For their debut Are You Nervous? they didn’t fool around: Mark Trombino – the proven pop-punk producer with platinum discs by Jimmy Eat World and Blink 182 on his wall – was retained to give the disc that big, bold, heavy-rotation vibe program directors love so much.

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