Premature Evaluation

Premature Evaluation: The Raconteurs – Consolers Of The Lonely

The best laid plans and all that. We know the Raconteurs tried their darndest to get Consolers Of The Lonely to everyone at the same time with a super short release schedule, but it’s impossible to prepare for everything (in this case, the dreaded, institutionalized iTunes leak). Realistically, the fact that Jack and Brendan and the boys didn’t get their sophomore follow up to Broken Boy Soldiers into everyone’s hands today (3/25) as planned won’t hurt much besides Jack’s feelings in the long run. Plus, it allowed for interesting interactions with your beloved Web Sheriff. And the music?

We’re being super premature, but the first few times through we like enough of Consolers Of The Lonely’s 14 tracks. It’s interesting how it opens with two of the biggest rockers — the roarin’ title track and also roarin’ first single “Salute Your Solution.” Then it moves into a more bluegrassy, pastoral (the Southern soft-rock of “Old Enough”), barroom (see “You Don’t Understand Me”) vein. Of course, you know the Raconteurs — they haven’t blown their rock ‘n’ roll load that early. There’s the unhinged “Five On The Five” and its “I look nothing like the kids in the videos” flood stomp? (Technically, Jack, you do look like the kid in the White Stripes and Raconteurs videos, but whatever.) Or, later, the pretty awesome “Rich Kid Blues” and its U2-style late-song dramatic arc. Stadium-sized, boys! So, plenty of old-fashioned, not-so-old-fashioned rock to keep things moving right along…

It’s early in our relationship with Consolers, but too many tracks sound serviceable rather than inspired. Like, “Attention” and “These Stones Will Shout” … pretty rote. Some of it feels useless. We dig a bit of it, too — for instance, the slippery changes and bold horns in “Many Shades Of Black.” It’s an example of why Jack’s stuff sounds so rooted, while followers just sound like him: His listening and research obviously go deep (even if he doesn’t have good Spanish … speaking of which, “The Switch and the Spur” keeps making us sing “Conquest” in a note-so-great way). Yes, there are many shades of white, err, black: It’s evident in the way he works his best tunes.

It’s wrong to focus entirely on Jack: Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler obviously bring their own considerable talents to the table, and are what keep this from being another White Stripes album. Brendan’s voice is good, less shredded, harmonizing compliment for JW. Jack Lawrence’s bass lines are often sick. And, think about Patrick’s drumming and percussion on the title track and “Five On The Five,” etc. It’s just that on so few listens, it’s White’s fingerprints that are most evident. Disagree? Listen to “Carolina Drama” again. That one sorta drags, but you know what we mean.

Bottom line: much of Console’s a retread. Um, that’s why the call it the blues? (We kid). Despite our complaints, we have to wonder, are there really any JW hold outs at this point? The man’s a bad ass, even when his songs go down a bit too easily.

Consolers Of The Lonely is out now on XL/Warner. You can download it at the band’s site.