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By: Will Lamborn

In mid-March, The Raconteurs, four musicians among them a major rock star and another well-established songwriter, announced only a week before the fact the simultaneous release across digital and tangible mediums of their sophomore album. The resulting Consolers of the Lonely, their follow up to Broken Boy Soldiers (2006), has some strong songs, a slew of slick production tricks, and an expansive array of sounds to match the influence and stylistic bearings of its two principal creative forces, Jack White and Brendan Benson. 

The Raconteurs (click to enlarge)

On Consolers, the balance shifts from beefed up power pop to raging blues rock guitars and restless eclecticism. The Raconteurs have provided White with the creative space for his whims to take him where they may, often to unexpected time changes and stylistic deviations, all aided by his compatriots’ tight musicianship and a wealth of studio polish. The result is neither a great nor consistent record, but rather a good one with some excellent songs and intriguing detours. As Benson and White trade off at the microphone, their vocal approaches imitate one another more so than their distinct though compatible musical roots. And despite the constant push and pull of crafted pop songwriting and retro-mining sensibilities their two approaches imply, the songs curiously avoid becoming anachronistic. The ringing, boisterous guitar riffs settle as comfortably within Consolers’ balladry and broader evocation of rough and tumble old-time Americana as much as the banjos, fiddles, and pianos sprinkled throughout the mix.

If Broken Boy Soldiers provoked reactions in some of being merely an experiment in power pop, here The Raconteurs are all over the map. The album starts off big on blistering guitar riffs and tempo-changing bridges, though short on memorable melodies.

Consolers of the Lonely 2008 (click to enlarge)

“You Don’t Understand Me” follows with more of a pop songwriters tilt, but by and large most of what could be considered straight forward pop finds that definition skewed by the immense diversity of sounds and wandering song structures. The mildly country-fied “Maybe When You’re Old Enough” stands out with a rolling, lazy drawl and fiddle line accentuating its pop hooks.  Rollicking “Five on the Five,” complete with guitar feedback screeches and stop-start sing-alongs, is an album highlight, particularly among the several riffage driven songs that pay tribute to bygone eras of 60s and 70s rockn’roll. Catchy if repetitive “Many Shades of Black” and acoustic “These Stones Will Shout” are other strong points, many of which cluster in Consolers’ second half.  It is with closer “Carolina Drama” that the Raconteurs live up to the skillful tale telling implied by their moniker, methodically spinning a murderous Southern-gothic yarn.  The song brings the album to a close on a high note as one of the most effective of the wide-ranging and consistently adventurous songs that preceded it.


All opinions expressed by Will Lamborn are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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