Ye Olde Rulebook Of Rock states that rock stars’ side projects should be as listenable as hearing your best friend put through a blender. They should be one long catalogue of wank featuring rhymes, witless electronica, drum solos and world music. And that’ll be world music from Burnage.
However, Ye Olde Book Rulebook has recently been shredded to make ticker tape to welcome the conquering heroes that are Arctic Monkeys. Everything’s up for grabs. And so Damon Albarn’s side project, Gorillaz, have the tunes and the fun while his ‘proper’ band labour under the oppressive yoke of authenticity and earnestness.
While The White Stripes are hardly bereft of tunes (‘My Doorbell’), there’s always been the impression that Jack White’s self-imposed boundaries have occasionally led the band to be something of a joyless burden for him.
The good news is that The Raconteurs is the sound of two friends (Jack and Brendan Benson) having the time of their lives as they share vocals. A double A-side single, both tracks are wonderful, but it’s ‘Steady, As She Goes’ which takes the honours. The noise is gleeful and unabashed fun from the sparse but insistent bassline that opens it (ask your dad about Joe Jackson’s ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’) before it blossoms into a slice of power-pop that’s like a poppier Pixies mixed with a darker Katrina & The Waves… ‘This Monkey’s Walking On Sunshine’, perhaps? And is – deep breath – as mighty a rock anthem as ‘Seven Nation Army’. And that sound at the end? That’ll be the Rulebook being reduced to fine powder.