Sound — 9
The Raconteurs' new album was released with relatively little publicity, but it could easily stand out as being one of the best records of the year. The quartet most famously known as Jack White's side project continues to have an earthy, bluesy element running through much of the new album Consolers of the Lonely, but there is much more going on this time around. Sure you get rock and blues, but the arrangements have been taken to a different level. Unexpected tempo changes are more the norm than the exception, which often takes most of the songs on exciting and gutsy turns along the way.
While not all of the 14 songs on Consolers of the Lonely are immediately embraceable, often because of their storytelling format (with the focus on several verses) that may test audiences' patience, it's still obvious that each one was written with plenty of thought. There are some tracks that draw you in instantly, however, and that has everything to do with the amazing arrangements. Consoler Of The Lonely is a prime example, with the intro featuring a cool little lick that completely stops and is taken over the sound of just percussion. It is seemingly just a great, straightforward rock track, but it has a little twist -- the tempos switch every time vocalist Brendan Benson switches duties with Jack White.
The Switch And The Spur has more of the ballad format mentioned earlier, but The Raconteurs take the liberty of also giving it more of an epic feel. There is a repeating trumpet line and the horns, and it has the same majestic power you hear in the White Stripes' Conquest. Tempo once again plays a huge part, and at about the halfway point the song speeds up, only to be taken back to it's original speed shortly after. The band has an incredible way of keeping things moving along, and The Switch And The Spur, although not necessarily the most infectious song on the record, is a beautiful example of The Raconteurs use of rhythm to create a mood.
Some of the tracks will need to grow on you, but Consolers of the Lonely has plenty of tracks that feature classic rock riffs. Attention and Five On The Five are standouts, while the first single Salute Your Solution gives the spotlight to the bass line for a good portion. While the first half of Salute Your Solution features your basic power chords with a manic vocal delivery, there's an absolutely fantastic groove-oriented breakdown which features the guitar doubling the vocal part. If you like the no-frills side of the band, you'll enjoy the first half of These Stones Will Shout, which centers around a clean acoustic and the lead vocals of White. It doesn't stay laid-back long, though, with things taking a turn toward the electric about halfway through the song.
Lyrics — 9
There's an old soul feel to the lyrics, which is a perfect match for the blues, vintage rock, or balladeering styles that often pop up in The Raconteurs' songs. The words always feel authentic, which is aided by the fact that vocalists White and Benson deliver the words with such emotion. The title track features some simple, yet effective lyrics with such lines as, If you're looking for an accomplice; A confederate, somebody's who's helpless; You're gonna find, you'll find yourself alone. They range from wise preachers to the everyman, and that's always an interesting mix.
Overall Impression — 9
In some ways The Raconteurs is a project that is much more daring than the White Stripes for Jack White, and more importantly, it brings the talents of vocalist Brendan Benson, bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer Patrick Keeler to the forefront. You're getting a lot more than riffs with The Raconteurs, and it's a credit to the band that they're able to continually find different ways to hold your attention. Whether it's the tempo changes, guitar effects, solos (from all the instruments, not just the guitars), or vocal delivery, there are an abundance of reasons to respect The Raconteurs.