Wednesday, June 25, 2008


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Consolers of the Lonely has had me in a vice-like grip since the first I heard it.

Review by Malcolm Stephenson
The term raconteur comes from the French, meaning “to relate, to tell, to narrate” or “one who excels in telling stories.” It may seem ambitious but The Raconteurs have every right to their namesake (except in Australia, it seems, where they’re known as the Saboteurs). With the debut release of Broken Boy Soldiers in 2006, the lineup of Jack White (vocals, guitars, keys), Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler (of the Greenhornes on bass and drums respectively) and Brendan Benson (vocals, guitars, keys) heralded a band with incredible—and ultimately Grammy-nominated—potential. Though, I have never really been impressed with that recording, there is a telling line from the album’s first single “Steady as She Goes” that states, “you’ve found yourself a friend that knows you well.” From the inception of this group all members have maintained that this is not a side project, but a group of old friends finding new sounds.

The sound of Consolers of the Lonely, produced by Benson and White, is as close to perfection as a production/mix can come (taking into account variables like the sound of tape, the sound of great microphones and compressors, etc). It was recorded at John McBride’s Bluebird Studios in Nashville and from what I’ve read this place is like Disneyland for vintage gear lovers. They perform with a mix of new and old gear, so it makes sense that this would be a perfect set and setting for a musical playground – and it worked, seeming to enhance every note.

The opening title track sounds like there’s a party going on: talking, laughing… and then the drums kick you in the chest, the double guitars and thick, meaty bass line kick in and by the very end of the song your face is melting. At the other end of the spectrum, “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Pull This Blanket Off” both center around a huge piano sound. If you’ve ever stuck your head inside of a grand piano while it’s being played, you’ll know what I mean. On “Understand Me,” as well as many other places on the recording, the sound of Benson and White’s similar voices are almost indistinguishable, and so are the instruments, to some extent.

The fourth track, “Old Enough,” switches gears altogether featuring some fiddle, some strong B3 organ work, and at times its hard to tell when the keys, the guitar, or the fuzz bass are taking the lead – attesting to the skilled musicianship of each player, and again, spot-on production. With “Hold Up” White declares, “‘Had enough of these modern times...” Not many would disagree with you brother! There’s a sick ½ time breakdown (one of a few on this recording) with all members joining in gang vocal style, a killer keyboard solo, hand clapping and revelry at the end just to remind you what a good time they’re having rocking you. The use of subtle percussion in the form of shakers, tambourines, sandpaper blocks, etc. is all over this recording – with “Top Yourself” as a prime example.

The Rac’s cover of Terry Reid’s “Rich Kid’s Blues” fits right in, even if it’s the only time the recording turns a little dark. The closer, “Carolina Drama” takes us back to the idea of a simple story. It begins with one guitar, sets and keeps its pace, builds to a psychotic chorus, then leaves you wondering if there is a point to the story. If it holds our attention, does it matter the point?

Consolers of the Lonely has had me in a vice-like grip since the first I heard it. It may sound trite, but it truly is a “once in a while” kind of recording and I can’t get tired of listening to it.

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