Consolers of the Lonely
March 25th 2008
Third Man Records (Warner Bros.)
Who doesn’t love it when bands spontaneously release records all over the world at the same time? Want to own it, album art and all? Order a copy from the website or check your local retailer. On March 25th The Raconteurs released a new full length record called Consolers of the Lonely in a trend that seems to be on the rise. They released their record with only a week’s notice, leaving little time for subpar leaks and pesky record reviews to act as intermediary between the music and its audience. Importantly they have not abandoned their record label, or should I say they have not taken refuge from WB’s oppression in the style of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails (disingenuous or not Trent).
This emerging trend is not necessarily defined by bands that buck the system and self-release records. The Raconteurs have shown that while they may not get all the pioneer credit of Yorke and Co to which NIN tried successfully to dip into, by releasing music in an innovative way, a band can capture the respect and favor of tastemakers everywhere. Consolers of the Lonely’s release was an event. Many month long marketing campaigns and media filtered previews only serve to make the actual release date of a record completely anticlimactic. I am not arguing against singles and the like, I just remember going to the record shop at midnight to get records whose release seemed to be worth remembering. Everyone by now knows the evils of the modern day big record company. The Raconteurs have no intention of addressing these perils, rather they intend on confronting the changing way that records are interfacing with their intended listeners. With the advent of new technology and adjusting big business models, which have largely been kind to Jack White, The Raconteurs have chosen to keep their innovations inbounds and in house.
As for the actual music on the record, it is great. Not only does Jack White have access to a more liberated drummer, but he has a co-captain named Brendan Benson, who has the pull to dampen some of the more appalling song ideas that Jack might have. The Raconteurs have released two records, both of which overtake their White Stripes counterparts. Not to say that Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump weren’t great in their own respect, but as Jack White slowly moves from the strict ethics of garage recording to the more colorful production of the refined studio, it seems that when Jack’s music is put in the larger context of multi instrumentation and the benefits of collaboration, The Raconteurs only makes sense. The White Stripes are at their best when they are ripping off Orson Wells from Citizen Kane; they are at their best when they are raw and uncluttered by artful distractions. But this article is not about The White Stripes.
Consolers of the Lonely is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to both music and lyrics. The personalities of both Jack White and Brendan Benson are evident throughout the record. The title track’s lyrics are questionable. It seems as if the words are simply a slew of common phrases that have been strung together.
“…I’m Skinny as a rail…” “…My brain is fried….
My tongue is tied” “…I’m board to tears…”
I suppose that could be the point, but the song isn’t really that interesting. Salute Your Solution has a great, albeit typical, Jack White melody. What comes as a surprise is when Brendan’s voice picks up the verse. The forging of the signature was audible. You Don’t Understand Me has a lame chorus and its piano line sounds lifted from Fiona Apple. More exactly it sounds like track 5, The Rowan Tree Trilogy, off the Target release Scottish Moors, which doesn’t sound like Fiona Apple at all, but we’ll split the difference. Songs like Many Shades of Black pull White out of his element. Even out of his element, he impressively thrives.
Consolers of the Lonely is certainly a great follow up to their debut. It is a pleasure to hear Jack White use an outlet that challenges his own conventional wisdom. His music is filled out and expanded. This is especially true for the final track. Carolina Dream, the title a possible reference to The Marshall Tucker Band’s sixth album Carolina Dreams, is the worth the price of the entire record. It is a well textured song with a perfect balance of instrumentation and vivid storytelling that lives up to the band’s name. White redeems his sometimes off lyrical style. The song makes apparent the organic negotiation between the band’s determination to stand on its own legs and the 1,000 lb gorilla of White’s prior association and success with The White Stripes. Carolina Dream is an excellent example of White’s great words, melody, and vociferousness. Consolers of the Lonely makes clear that no matter what lop-sided talent Jack White brings to the table, it is The Raconteurs that allow the full range of that talent to be expressed.-FF
Broken Boy Soldiers- 2006