With the re-introduction of a so-called "indie rock scene" into the wilds of the music mainstream, it seems that rock in its truest form has again been forced into the shadows. This is indeed a sad time for people like myself. However, recent release of Consolers of The Lonely, the second and by far most consistently strong album from The Raconteurs, fires a rocket into the night, signaling the return of unapologetic, raucous, honky tonk rock and roll.
Brendan Benson, Jack White (the driving force behind blues rock revivalist The White Stripes) and the rhythm section from The Greenhornes (Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence) have returned, playing like a band that has something to prove and in the process, have given the world a topnotch record for its listening pleasure.
The band's debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, was a strong first effort but relied too heavily on pop-ish song crafting and the recycled folk rock of Neil Young and The Band. With Consolers they've thrown 90% of the balladry aside and have gotten nice and cozy with their distortion pedals... Hallelujah! A band has made an album this year that isn't emo, indie rock, cock rock or even that goddamned mellow surfer hippie crap that Jack Johnson keeps cranking out.
What we have with The Raconteurs, ladies and gentlemen, is simple. Four accomplished musicians running on all cylinders, kicking down the doors and giving the listeners the cohesive beast that they got a glimpse of on the first record but that was never fully realized.
Don't get me wrong. Consolers is not a perfect album, it has a misstep or two (the spaghetti western vibe of "The Switch and The Spur" is one) with some of the same rough edges that made a few rock albums in the late 1960's and '70's great. Consolers of The Lonely is hurried but calm, heavy with a delicate touch, schizophrenic but focused, caring without really giving a shit.
What appears to come along with this transformation, rather progression, is the wide range of subject matter covered. Love approached in the entirely wrong way ("You Don't Understand Me"), the manic explosion of kinetic energy (the disc's first single "Salute Your Solution") and the contradictions that make up the rock lifestyle, the album's title track that has some of the best lyrics on the subject since Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."
The most exciting thing about Consolers is not only the music but also the way that Jack White seems to take to the songs. His guitar work is sharp and biting on one track, smooth and effortless on another. It is easy to hear that Jack is having fun playing the new songs. The weight of being responsible for a band's entire musical output as he is with his duo, The White Stripes, must take some of the enjoyment out of making music. Listen to the two most recent White Stripes records; while they border on greatness, they pale in comparison to their first three albums. (DeStijl is mandatory listening for any blues-rock fanatic.)
It is obvious that The Raconteurs are an absolutely collaborative effort as well as being not a mere side project for Benson, White, Keller and Lawrence. They put all they have into Consolers of The Lonely and it works like a dream. Upon repeated listening, I can almost smell stale beer on my stereo's speakers and with eyes closed, see blood pouring onto the guitar strings as Benson and White tear apart their Gretsches, the earth quakes from the vibrations kicking out of Jack Lawrence's bass as the top layer of the planet's crust is pulverized by the expert precision of Patrick Keller's drumming.
White and Benson as a songwriting pair are almost today's version of Lennon & McCartney. Well, maybe I shouldn't go that far; judging by the style of the music they create, today's Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm is probably a more accurate comparison.
The excitement, power and quality of this record as well as the band should have a lot of groups nervous. All "rock" bands are hereby put on notice: It's time to step up your game now. And furthermore, if The Raconteurs keep making records as good as Consolers of The Lonely, Meg White should be worried about losing her day job.