You can imagine Jack White striding into the offices of Warner Bros. Music with the just-completed, top-secret master of The Raconteurs’ newest album and politely demanding that it be released as soon as possible.
Anybody else would have been tossed out by security, but three weeks later, Consolers of the Lonely was pressed, on shelves, and online. If a seven-nation army couldn’t hold him back, what chance does a record label have?
Consolers was written, recorded, and mastered in a week (standard operating procedure in White’s main gig, The White Stripes), but the quick turnaround doesn’t reflect a lack of material or shoddy production. Consolers is friendly, slick, and eager to please — a potential problem considering that White sounds best when he’s obtuse, raw, and defiant.
Still, the formula mostly works: White and Brendan Benson trade vocal duties on “Salute Your Solution” while riding a fat guitar riff, and “Five on the Five” is a fun four-on-
the-floor stomper. But Benson overshoots with “Many Shades of Black,” a tune that recalls ’90s
Aerosmith (complete with cheesy blues horns).
If anything saves the record from devolving into generic radio-rock, it's the country tinges of fiddle and honky-tonk piano that cut through the grunge. White, who now lives in Nashville, has always been a storyteller in the country tradition, a fact easy to overlook next to the red-and-white theatrics of the Stripes. Here his narrator persona takes center stage: “Switch and Spur” spins a Sergio Leone tale, while album closer “Carolina Drama” turns the standard domestic-abuse story on its head with a clever punch line.
The Raconteurs may not reach the artistic heights of The White Stripes, but who cares? Consolers is the sound of four dudes jamming until they have to go back to their respective homes. The Raconteurs may be Jack’s carefree, younger mistress, but his heart — and his art — will always belong to Meg White.