Raconteurs in need of raw energy

By Gus Bode

The Raconteurs: Consolers of the Lonely

Release Date: March 25, 2008

Label: Warner Bros.



When musicians who are known for their work in other groups form a band, the results can be at once intriguing and vexing.

The only member of the Raconteurs likely to be known to the public at large is Jack White, whose band, the White Stripes, has released three top ten records in the US and the UK. The other three quarters of the band include Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of the Greenhornes, as well as the solo artist Brendan Benson.

“Consolers of the Lonely,” the Raconteurs’ follow-up album to their 2006 debut, “Broken Boy Soldiers,” continues with the band’s taut styling of blues and hard rock, which comes across as being expert in execution but perhaps lacking inventive inspiration.

Many of the songs on “Lonely” follow narratives, often with dark, almost literary overtones.

“The Switch and the Spur” finds a rising trumpet and an unremitting piano supporting Benson as he sings in ballad-like stanzas, “For theirs is the power, and this is their kingdom, as sure as the sun does burn. So enter this path but heed these four words, ‘You shall never return.'”

Later comes “Carolina Drama,” a morbidly beautiful Southern Gothic tale of passion, murder and gin, likely to remind some listeners of the Beatles’ stab at violence in rural Americana, “Rocky Raccoon.” In it, White squawks, backed by a fiddle and a distorted blues guitar, “Billy broke in and saw the blood on the floor. He turned around and put the lock on the door. He looked dead into the boyfriend’s eye. His mother was a ghost too upset to cry.” White then bursts into a haunting “la, la, la” chorus before fading out.


Where “Consolers of the Lonely” goes wrong is its professionalism. Each track sounds so tightly rehearsed and recorded that all sense of adventure is stricken from it.

What have made the White Stripes such an interesting band are the frenetic, lo-fi characteristics of their music. So many of their songs are laced with a raw, do-it-yourself energy. In contrast, the Raconteurs are overtly arranged and self-possessed in all their recordings. This professionalism isn’t necessarily negative, but a first-time listener of the Raconteurs is probably going to be less intrigued than a first-time listener of the White Stripes.

It is easy to find oneself admiring the craft of “Consolers of the Lonely,” while at the same time wishing for a little more passion or perhaps a few more bizarre quirks. Despite their obvious skill, the Raconteurs seem too tightly contained, and though they are deserving of more than just the moniker of “side project,” their work is not likely to completely escape the shadow of White’s work in the White Stripes.

Devin Vaughn can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or [email protected].