Release Date: Mar 25, 2008
Record label: Warner Bros.
Anybody who has followed Jack White's online screeds and offstage brawls knows that the White Stripes' mastermind can tend to get a little, well, defensive when he's challenged (and sometimes even when he's not), but this trait hasn't always surfaced on record -- at least not in the way he and his merry band of Raconteurs do on their second album, Consolers of the Lonely. At the very least, this bubbling blend of bizarro blues, rustic progressive rock, fractured pop, and bludgeoning guitars is a finger in the eye to anyone who dared call the band a mere power pop trifle, proof that the Raconteurs are a rock & roll band, but it's not just the sound of the record that's defiant. There's the very nature of the album's release: how it was announced to the world a week before its release when it then appeared in all formats in all retail outfits simultaneously; there's the obstinately olde-fashioned look of the art work, how the group is decked out like minstrels at a turn-of-the century carnival, or at least out of Dylan's Masked and Anonymous.
”I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Sunset Boulevard‘s unhinged silver-screen diva Norma Desmond spoke these immortal words more than half a century ago, but the claim could easily transpose itself to Consolers of the Lonely, a brawny, joyful plundering of the classic-rock catalog. Where other indie-rooted artists laboriously perfect their tributes to the same few touchstones — the Velvet Underground, Pixies, Sonic Youth — Jack White, Brendan Benson, and their fellow Raconteurs hitch country and long-haired funk to a boisterous blooze-rock wagon with nary a nod to subtlety or art-school cool.
So, this is the lasting effect of the fast one Radiohead pulled with In Rainbows. A band thinks it can beat the Internet (and you, sinister downloader) by announcing the release of a new album a mere eight days before it hits shelves. It could have worked, too, if the album hadn't leaked the Friday before -- and if it weren't completely staid. When the Raconteurs first dropped out of nowhere with their debut LP, 2006's Broken Boy Soldiers, their novelty was the fact that Jack White was playing in a new band (gasp!), and it had three other guys, including one who could actually play drums (gasp!!).
Take a few bored musicians out of their regular group context and put them together in a studio filled with a variety of instruments and what they’ll produce likely won’t sound much different from the Raconteurs’ Consolers Of The Lonely. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine each tune arising from a riff on a trumpet, fiddle, piano, keyboard or guitar played through a vintage pedal and then someone chimes in “Hmm, that’s just like a mariachi horn bit – let’s try a western number about a guy on a horse. ” It’s a much more musically diverse album than the Raconteurs have done before, but there are many more misses than hits among these 14 tracks.
Written in only 10 days, the Raconteurs' 2006 debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, was a snapshot of the quartet's potential. With follow-up Consolers of the Lonely, recorded in Nashville and rushed into stores following its completion in the first week of March, everything coalesces, beginning with the caterwauling one-two crunch of the opening title track and single "Salute Your Solution," which find frontmen Jack White and balladeer Brendan Benson ricocheting leads with sweltering fervor. As the Greenhornes rhythm section holds down the back line, White explores his eccentricities, resulting in a grab bag of Zeppelin folk ("Old Enough"), Icky Thump ("Five on the Five"), and dust bowl blues ("Top Yourself"), while Benson-led epic "The Switch and the Spur" melds Morricone with the Moody Blues.