Boys club for men

Jack White’s Raconteurs roadtrip
By MATT ASHARE  |  September 28, 2006

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DOUBLES MATCH: “We’re really aiming toward that duality: the dual songwriting, the dual guitar leads, the harmonies, the dual vocals.”
I can’t be the only person who found it odd that Brendan Benson was hand-picked by the White Stripes as one of the main opening acts on their big Get Behind Me Satan tour. Benson, like Meg and Jack White, is a Detroit native. But it’s hard — no, impossible — to imagine that he and the Whites were ever part of a tight-knit Motor City scene. Actually, it’s hard to imagine that there’s a real music scene in that oddly burned-out town. Ann Arbor? Maybe. But Detroit Rock City? My ass.

There’s also an enormous stylistic chasm that separates Benson’s classic æsthetic, which is steeped in the tidy hooks, clean guitars, and lightly psychedelic undertones of Beatlesque power pop, from the Stripes’ raucous garage blooze. Benson signed directly to a major label (Virgin) for his debut, hooked up with Raspberries-pop master Jason Faulkner (of Jellyfish), and then had to re-record the whole damn thing at the label’s behest with a more alt-rock-oriented producer, Ethan James of Jane’s Addiction fame. The Stripes, meanwhile, went lo-fi DIY all the way, releasing their albums on the tiny garage-rock label Sympathy for the Record Industry until 2003, when, their audience having grown beyond Sympathy’s distribution capacity, a deal with the mini-major V2 was worked out.

But the White Stripes weren’t just showing their own sympathy for what the record industry had done to Benson by bringing him along on tour. It turns out that White and Benson are long-time pals who’ve been writing songs and trading hooks for years. As White explains when I catch him and Benson on their cells during a tour-bus ride to Dallas, “We met in Detroit, where we both lived, and we shared a lot of the same musical sensibilities. Maybe we didn’t play the same type of music, but we both liked Dylan. I remember seeing him play ‘Isis’ one night. I was shocked that he remembered all of the words. I had covered that song too, so there were little things like that. You know, I think there’s a lot to talk about between musicians no matter what you’re into. It’s not like a banker talking to a construction worker or something. There’s always the art of songwriting.”

Talking turned to playing, and when White hooked up with the Rust Belt rhythm section of drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence (from another outfit who opened for the Stripes on the Satan tour, Cincinnati’s the Greenhornes), a band was born, the Raconteurs, who play the Orpheum this Friday. “I don’t think we ever really made a proclamation about this being a band,” Benson explains. “It was just that at some point during the making of what became our first album we started thinking, ‘This sounds pretty good. And maybe we should come up with names for some of these songs. And maybe we should even name this band.’ So it started with just the four of us getting together just to play, to jam together, which we’d talked about doing for years . . . since like 1998.”

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A five-point plan for the celebrification of Jack
Jack White’s already well on his way to being a full-fledged, full-blooded American rock star. He’s had public feuds with the Von Bondies and Ryan Adams. He dated a hot actress (Renée Zellweger) before marrying an even hotter red-headed supermodel (Karen Elson) on a boat in the Amazon. But if he really wants to get the paparazzi pumped, he’ll have to do better. Here are a few suggestions that don’t involve plastic surgery, rehab, illegitimate children, or being busted on a bus with Willie Nelson.

1_ Write and record a duet to benefit a timely cause like global warming with Bono. (If Bono’s not available, Sting is not a bad back-up.)
2_ Start his own hipster red-and-white clothing line, complete with a unisex cologne.
3_ Appear in his own Osbournes-style reality show on which he really breaks Bonaduce.
4_ Perform a guest rap on the next big P Diddy project, preferably something that will get him a halftime spot at the next Super Bowl.
5_ Star in a film directed by Jim Jarmusch or, better still, Robert Altman. If that doesn’t work out, he can always get himself a bit part in the next Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

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