The Raconteurs: Consolers of the Lonely

Third Man/Warner Bros.
Music ••• Sound ••••

To Jack White, everything is a concept. The White Stripes are his tightly controlled garage-rock outfit, where the primal and the minimalist rule. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that his Raconteurs collaboration with power-pop songwriter Brendan Benson (who shares a good deal of the vocal duties) is his escape hatch, his chance to indulge in all those colors and flavors he strips away from his main group. Flashy guitar solos, careful harmonies, and nods to orchestrated psychedelia, Spaghetti Westerns, and '70s AM radio: This is what you'll find in Consolers of the Lonely, added to the arsenal of blues-rock riffs from a garage-rock maven indulging his inner Led Zeppelin.

"Top Yourself" delivers the back-porch slide-blues you expect, "Attention" goes straight for the boogie jar, and the cover of Terry Reid's "Rich Kid Blues" plugs in the organ and takes a stretch from the Allman Brothers Band. "Many Shades of Black" vamps with the showmanship of Freddie Mercury inside its horn-pitched tent. "Five on the Five" hyperventilates with an agitated groove that heightens the tension and sets fire to furious power chords.

There's some studio chatter for audio-vérité effect, and the playing retains a spontaneous energy, but the album is never sloppy. And the sonics - the guitars are in massive but well-thought-out stereo walls - aren't taken lightly. The band recorded this album not at home (like the previous Broken Boy Soldiers) but at Nashville's Blackbird Studio. Tightly controlled, yes; but at the same time, the Raconteurs have mastered the art of appearing indifferent. And in their 55-minute run through the history of rock, White and Benson & Co. cherrypick their moments with a sense of fun and mischief.

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