The music revolution of the last six months started off with Radiohead. This was followed by Trent Reznor’s project with Saul Williams (Niggy Tardust) and even his own Nine Inch Nails release Ghosts I-IV. Why you ask was this happening? Ed O’Brien of Radiohead said it best when talking on BBC radio, “after recording an album for a record label an artist has to wait sometimes up to six months to get some formal feedback about the record that they’re so proud of. But why wait?” Radiohead, Saul Williams and Nine Inch Nails didn’t. In fact all three artists all cut out the middle man better know as the record label. They did it their own way.
But The Raconteurs did one better. They not only released the album online but also got it in shops in record time. Their new album, Consolers of the Lonely was pressed, printed and released in seven days. The band recorded Consolers throughout the month of February. But instead of waiting the typical six months, they put out their pride and joy in a week.
But who cares, really? In a few years, no one’s really going to remember or care how long it took Consolers of the Lonely to be released. All that matters what’s on the wax. It sounds like Jack White, Brendan Benson and their dynamic rhythm section of Patrick Keller and Jack Lawrence are on a mission to kick out the jams with a traveling blues show that will rock your house from morning through noon and way past midnight.
The Raconteurs’ follow-up to Broken Boy Soldiers blows its predecessor away. I’ll be the first one to admit that originally, I was no fan of The Raconteurs debut album. I loved “Steady as She Goes” but the rest of the album, sans the tripped out “Blue Veins,” disappointed me. I expected so much more.
But as I found out a week ago about the rush release of Consolers of the Lonely, I gave Broken Boy Soldiers a fresh, new spin. This time the album floored me. Who knows what I was on, but I now love this album. Soldiers has aged gracefully. What really struck me was how flawless and melodic White and Benson sound singing together. I was especially fond of the way these two traded lines on “Together.”
In any case, not only do White and Benson sound better than ever on Lonely, but at times I have trouble telling them apart. Their voices have actually blended styles. Each of them feeds off the other. Benson has incorporated more of that `Stripes-like bluesy vocal style, as you can hear on the opening title track. What really surprised me was that it’s Brendan’s, and not Jack’s, that is the first voice you hear on the record. But then Jack’s high pitched wail comes in after the first chorus and yeah, that’s the guy we all know and love, giving us all that blues we need and desire.
You’ll notice the killer rock numbers throughout Lonely, something that I first realized Soldiers was lacking. First single “Salute Your Solution” brings out the fuzz with style. The Greenhornes duo Keller and Lawrence turn out to be the shining the stars of this record. We all know that White and Benson get most of the acclaim but those two make The Raconteurs’ new album the powerhouse that it is. They are the best rhythm section in the business. Jack White pulled a Bob Dylan by asking two of the most underrated musicians to join his band, but just listen in between the vocal harmonies of White and Benson—your jaw’s gonna smash as it hits the floor. They bring the funky rhythms lifting Lonely into classic realms.
But wait a minute, Lonely isn’t a 24-hour rock party. Close, but there’s a few Soldier-like, quintessentially down-to-dirt and memorably kick back songs. One of my favorites is the piano-flavored “You Don’t Understand Me.” Those harmonies have a sound of the ’70s feel. Keller and Lawrence bring the songs in the modern age with their trademark backing rhythms. Listen for the pounding heartbeat drums and the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” reminiscent piano chords during the climax of “You Don’t Understand Me.”
Speaking of the keys, another piano-based favorite is the short but sweet “Pull This Blanket Off.” The riffs from the bridge make this one sound like it should be in a future Wes Anderson film. I can picture a Max Fischer-esque rebel planning his next move to this multi-sonic groove. This country flavored ditty has a White Album/McCartney inspired bass line that comes off clearly towards the end of the song.
There are more highlights, still. Listen for the acoustic “These Stones will Shout” and the album closer “Carolina Drama.” Both songs start slow and explode by their grand finale. At first, during “These Stones will Shout,” White channels his best Robert Plant but then, as you will notice the influence of Benson, his vocals throughout sound less Stripes shriek-like and more melodic. Thanks to Keller and Lawrence, “Shout” morphs into a prog rock explosion that is a pure delight. “Carolina” is more of a 21st century murder ballad that would make Nick Cave proud.
My favorite song, and one that I can totally relate to, is one that White and The Raconteurs may just regret putting on Lonely—”Rich Kid Blues.” Thankfully The O.C. is off the air because Seth Cohen would have co-opted this song and made it his personal anthem. Listen as Benson does his best Dennis DeYoung while the band pays tribute to Styx in an epic that ends in a righteous style that’s definitely The Raconteurs. I love the lyrics, especially when White and Benson croons, “Though I always play to win/I always seem to lose/That’s why I think I got/ A rich kid’s blues.” It’s all tongue and cheek but there will be some affluent lads that will take The Raconteurs’ message seriously, which, if you ask me, is truly hilarious.
In all seriousness, The Raconteurs are back with an album that will rock your ass off. These guys enjoy turning up their amps way past eleven. Lonely is actually the first album in ages with which I was more enthralled with the rhythms than in the rhymes. The lyrics are as top notch than anything White and Benson have ever written in their perspective careers, and yet there’s something about the complete sound of this band. The Raconteurs are an anomaly in today’s music scene. They’re much more than a modern Traveling Wilburys. They are four guys who have put their egos aside to form a band with a cohesive vision dedicated to the exploration of the art of rock. All the while, they’re creating a new legacy that will be remembered in the annals of rock history.