Review: The Raconteurs’ “Consolers of the Lonely”

Mar 27, 2008 10:02am

The Raconteurs announced that this album was being released only last week.  Supposedly it was just finished and put out with little lag time.  The band is of course most famous for being “Jack White’s other band” besides the White Stripes, but it really is a Detroit rock-scene super-group. The band after all is co-led by power-popper Brendan Benson, who, although not nearly as famous is equally notable to White in his musical abilities.  Drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence are both in the Greenhornes.  Declaring this as merely “Jack White’s other band” is to miss the point completely. Two years ago, the band released their debut “Broken Boy Soldiers.”  That album was great and was loved by critics.  “Consolers of the Lonely” blows that album away in spades!  First of all, it’s much weightier.  It has four more tracks and is more than twenty minutes longer.  “Broken Boy Soldiers” was exciting, but looking back, it came off like an experiment.  This is the work of a full-fledged, lived-in, die-hard, experienced band.  Of course there are ghosts from the band members’ day jobs.  “Top Yourself” sounds very much like a bigger, badder version of a White Stripes song.  (Think of a blues number like the Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit” and think how it would sound with a full band!) Similarly, “Old Enough” has moments where it sounds like it could’ve been an out-take from Benson’s fantastic 2005 record, “The Alternative to Love.”  (That album’s a must-listen if you haven’t heard it.)    This is a pre-eighties rock record.  It seems like it is very rooted in the seventies-rock universe.  Of course, with Jack White in the lead position, Led Zeppelin comes to mind most strongly.  Tempos shift in a workmanlike, albeit unpredictable fashion.  Other giants come to mind as well. Benson’s vocal performance on “Many Shades of Black” for instance sounds like it could’ve been sung by Freddie Mercury.    Horn sections are also all around.  “Five on the Five” begins with an alarm-like trumpet chorus which is then mirrored by the guitar-line. “The Switch and the Spur” sounds like a grand, mariachi-influenced Western-theme when it begins.  Is this influence a holdover from the White Stripes’ recent cover of the Patti Page hit “Conquest?” For whatever reason they are now added to the mix, the horns add depth to the band’s sound.  When the group rocks out, they do so with force.  Both “Hold Up” and first single “Salute the Solution” are bold, loud workouts built on a classic rock mold somewhere between the before mentioned Zeppelin and the Stooges.  It’s interesting to hear when Benson and White trade off vocals, as they do on the song “Consoler of the Lonely.”  They prove themselves to be a pretty stellar tag-team.  Backed by White’s muscular guitar, Benson’s delivery gets more urgency than he usually summons on his solo work. But the band handles mellower territory well, too.  Consider that the two strongest tracks are probably the mid-tempo “You Don’t Understand Me” (a song that might not have sounded out of place if say, Wilco had put a version of it on their album “Sky Blue Sky.”) and the acoustic, slightly Celtic-sounding “These Stones Will Shout.”  The latter works itself up into a full-fledged frenzy by its end, shifting tempos completely and rocking with great might.  Jack White works the troubadour label pretty well, too.  “Carolina Blues” shows him in a very self-aware Dylan mode.  Although it’s poured rather thickly, it still works.  Indeed the Raconteurs are stronger as a whole than any one of their parts.  They are a fully dependent crew.   ”Consolers of the Lonely” is jam-packed full of dynamite and skill.

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