Jack White is big news. Whether the White Stripes leader produces a record for a Country legend (Loretta Lynn), punches out the Von Bondies frontman or gets married, he gets press.
On the other hand, Brendan Benson has been recording longer than the Stripes but without nearly the notoriety. So it made sense the two Detroit natives, and mutual admirers, would team up.
White carries a heavy load in White Stripes. As the most prominent half of the duo, he sings, plays guitar, writes songs and is generally responsible for the White Stripes sound. It's on him not to disappoint. Having already proved himself, wouldn't it be nice to be in a larger band (perhaps one with a bass player), perform some different music, sing half the time rather than all, and just play guitar on some songs? Of course.
Benson had a different vantage point. Here was a chance to amp it up. An opportunity to reach a larger, much larger audience. Add a pair of Cincinnati garage Rockers, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler and you have the Raconteurs.
Benson and White began working together in '04. Benson had the music but no lyrics for a song called "Steady, As She Goes." So he asked White to help out. With the song finished, they continued working together forming the Raconteurs and playing shows. They're debut album "Broken Boy Soldiers" was issued in May of '06.
Having relocated to Nashville, the Raconteurs recorded their sophomore album between tours and other responsibilities. With little prior notice, they rolled out "Consolers Of The Lonely." "We wanted to explore the idea of releasing an album everywhere at once and then marketing and promoting it thereafter," said a band statement. The 14-song effort was available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.
With the tour in support of "Consolers Of The Lonely" complete it was time to take a break. But White, apparently never one to sit still - for too long, had a productive '08. First, he wrote and recorded, with Alicia Keys, the theme for the James Bond flick Quantum Of Solace (yeah, it is a goofy title). Unfortunately, it was not a wholly pleasant experience. White voiced his displeasure that the theme song got its first exposure in an advertisement. "We are disappointed that you first heard the song in a co-promotion for Coke Zero, rather than in its entirety," said a statement from White's management.
White's next film project was later in the year when the documentary It Might Get Loud with fellow guitarists Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (U2) premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. The film focused on the three men and their instrument of choice.
2006 Broken Boy Soldiers
2008 Consolers Of The Lonely
The Raconteurs are not the White Stripes. That's by design. Nor are they as compelling. Whether that's due to the absence of Meg's drumming or Jack's exhilarating overcompensation, the Raconteurs lack the White Stripes' edgy tension on "Broken Boy Soldiers." Still, this is energetic and passionate with well crafted songs and jangling guitars. Both White and Benson nail the vocals while backed by a tight rhythm section. "Steady As She Goes" is near perfect pop-Rock. It's followed by a handful of exceptional songs (the title track, "Hands,"and "Intimate Secretary").
Two ballads make an impression, "Together," with the line "you gotta learn to live and live and learn" and "Yellow Sun." Interestingly, the album closes with another pair of ballads, "Call It A Day" and "Blue Veins." Both are moody and intriguing, but not all that engaging. Stick with the uptempo tracks and the earlier ballads.
Critics (this one included) may have had a tepid response to the Raconteurs' debut but there is no reason for them or anybody else not to embrace "Consolers Of The Lonely." It's a high energy set with excellent songs, framed by spot-on arrangements and vocals.
The Raconteurs tear into the CD's first single, "Salute Your Solution," pushing all the right buttons on this vigorous romp. The album rolls through the '70s with the R&B flavored "Many Shades Of Black," and its killer horn riff. There are affectionate nods to both The Band and even Kansas. "Pull The Blanket Off" is a loose, joyful song with Country embellishments while "Rich Kid Blues" goes Prog Rock without (thankfully) falling overboard. "Five On The Side" adds bass to what would typically be a White Stripes song. The set closes with the Southern gothic "Carolina Drama." Had these songs been the key tracks, this would have been a noteworthy effort. But in the end, they aren't because "You Don't Understand" and "Attention" are pop-Rock gems and "Hold Up" and the lean "These Stones Will Shout" simply kick it out.