Review: Raconteurs brilliant on sophomore effort


Two years after The Raconteurs’ debut, “Broken Boy Soldiers,” it still sounds strange to hear Jack White with a full band. Luckily the additions of fellow Detroit guitarist Brendan Benson and an upgraded rhythm section via the Greenhornes have given White’s songwriting a shot in the arm. The collaboration has been even more beneficial for Benson, who is finally reaching a larger audience after spending years just short of stardom as a solo artist.

While not as immediately catchy as their first album, “Consolers of the Lonely” is a raucous tour-de-force that captivates the listener’s attention from beginning to end.

White is simply the best thing music has going for it today. His guitar playing and singing style are so expressive and earnest that one cannot help but get swept up in his work. Showing no signs of a creative decline, White’s songs are still as effortlessly affecting as the opening notes of “Seven Nation Army” were four years ago. While still leaning heavily toward garage rock, White tries out a few new tricks on “Consolers of the Lonely” as well.

“Carolina Drama,” like an evil twin of Bob Dylan’s “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts,” is an acoustic murder ballad dark enough to make Nick Cave proud. Juggling such disparate characters as a priest, an abusive boyfriend and a milkman, White weaves stark images (“The white milk dripped down with the blood”) into a tale that leaves the listener hanging on his every word. It’s the kind of major artistic leap that sets White apart from his contemporaries.

While he never threatens to unseat White as the group’s superstar, Benson contributes some great songs as well. His Raconteurs’ compositions never quite match his solo work melodically, but the added edge provided by his bandmates more than makes up for it. Content to let White handle the more bluesy and rockier numbers, Benson finds a niche as the more melodic Raconteur. “Many Shades of Black” sounds like something Led Zeppelin would’ve written for the Crystals while “The Switch and the Spur” makes use of mariachi trumpets for a distinctly southwestern sound. Benson’s smoother vocals compliment White’s bluesman howls well, and they trade guitar riffs throughout the album to great effect.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on “Consolers of the Lonely” is its diversity. Reaching across decades to pull influences from such wide-ranging genres as ’60s pop, ’70s guitar bands and ’80s arena rock, The Raconteurs have solidified their place as one of today’s most exciting bands. True, there is no standout single like “Steady as She Goes,” but risk-takers like “Carolina Drama” are a worthy substitute. The band’s third release can’t come soon enough.

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