If you like modern rock music but are tired of the "look how clever we are" stylings that sink a lot of indie output, then this is for you. The Raconteurs' second album, Consolers of the Lonely, is an upbeat, bluesy rock album that shows little of such pretension, hearkening back to '70s classic rock. It's strength is its simplicity, built on great rhythms, guitar riffs and rock strut. Of course, it's another feather in the cap of Jack White, the band's frontman and one of the decade's most influential musicians, mostly known for his other band, The White Stripes.
Consolers opens with its sort-of title track "Consoler of the Lonely," a rough-around-the-edges, upbeat track notable for its shifting tempo, which I love. "Salute Your Solution" is even more insistent, with driving drum work not unlike what Meg White would be doing with Jack (except of course that it's Patrick Keeler). These are short, quick songs, followed by the contrasting "You Don't Understand Me," a longer track, with a dialed down tempo and really great piano part. As long as this song is, I actually wish it were longer, for it features an awesome piano and guitar instrumental at the end, which probably could have gone on for at least a couple more minutes of build up. Perhaps they are saving such tricks for live shows. "Pull This Blanket Off" also has great piano work, but again, I'm left wanting more; at 1:59 it's the album's shortest track.
Other instruments make key appearances on various tracks, lending flavors of other styles, but never pushing the songs away from their bluesy/classic rock cores. The violins of "Old Enough" lend it a folksy feel, although the vibe is mostly '70s rock. For "Top Yourself," its the banjo that lends a folksy air, holding its own against the electric guitar. "The Switch and the Spur" features a prominent horn section, distinctively southwestern, creating a sound that alternates between that and the '70s rock sound. Horns also show up on the particularly bluesy "Many Shades of Black." Such varied instrumentation is kept to a minimum though. "Hold Up," "Five on the Five," and "Attention," the album's most frenetic rock tracks, put the electric guitar front and center.
Despite clocking in with 14 tracks (but really only 55 minutes), the albums closing numbers don't lose any momentum. "Rich Kid Blues" is a more melancholy track, and reminds me a bit of Led Zeppelin of all things (I'm not much of a Led Zeppelin expert though, so I could be way off). It starts off slow, but really picks up, before abruptly pulling the tempo back down again. "These Stones Will Shout" has the album's best acoustic guitar work. Dreamy "Carolina Drama" is a great closer--a dramatic story about domestic discord in a troubled South Carolina household.
No surprise, The Raconteurs sound on Consolers for the Lonely has a lot in common with the White Stripes, albeit less avante garde. That makes the album more instantly accessible and just a lot of fun. The Stripes' Icky Thump took me awhile to warm to it--this I liked from the first spin. Best rock album of the year so far.
Best: Consoler of the Lonely, You Don't Understand Me, Rich Kid Blues, The Switch and the Spur, Top Yourself, Salute Your Solution, Carolina Drama, Old Enough, Attention