What I Am: Listening to this Week

The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely (2008)

This is another album I waited a long time to get my hands on due to budgetary issues. I’m so glad I picked it up at the library. I had loved (still do) their debut Broken Boy Soldiers, and I also like just about all the White Stripes stuff. Jack White is a blues guitar/punk rock hero as far as I’m concerned. Brilliant.

I had not heard of Brendan Benson before the Raconteurs, though, and I have to admit, I have not sought out his other band.

I would out and out throw out two tracks on this album: “The Switch and the Spur”, and “Carolina Drama”. They seem self indulgent, and are not interesting, except as a way for either White or Benson to expose the depths of his fan-boy taste. My reaction: a big ole yawn.

Otherwise, Consolers of the Lonely shows the Raconteurs breaking away from the polished sound of Broken Boy Soldiers, and toning down the obvious influences. On their debut, I felt that they were saying, “Hey, you like the Kinks? We have this song that sounds just like them.” The Beatles were another obvious source.

Instead, the Raconteurs go straight ahead rocking, tearing through the title track and “Salute Your Solution” with headlong, guitar-infused abandon. They come up for air on “You Don’t Understand Me”, with pretty piano. If anything, some of this material evokes big arena bands of the 1970s — The Who, especially “Rich Kid Blues” (written by Terry Reid), or The Rolling Stones.

Listening to Consolers of the Lonely, I keep wondering how Jack’s marriage is going. Or maybe Benson is the one whose relationship is rocky. Or maybe it’s all a metaphor for the music business — always a possibility.

Aside from my Choice Track — “Top Yourself”, a twangy, down-and-dirty blues stomp — two other cuts are standouts: The frenetic “Five on the Five” and “These Stones Will Shout”, about as wistful as a ballad, only faster, with loud guitars. The rest of the album, except for those two throw-away songs I mentioned, is a hard-edged satisfying rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza.

rpm’s Choice Track: Top Yourself, sample lyric: “I’d like to give a dog a bone, but I’m not going to stick around to help you”. Ouch.