The marketing of Consolers of the Lonely, the second album from Jack White's side project the Raconteurs, threatens to overshadow the music. Last month, the band announced they had completed the record and would release it just a few days later, as soon as the CDs were manufactured and shipped to stores. Ostensibly conceived as a means to preempt leaks, the tactic disallows traditional marketing yet is itself a form of marketing, garnering the band extra headlines. How well the album sells is another matter (there have been rumors about some stores not receiving shipments), but if Consolers tanks, it won't be the fault of the music.
The bulk of the album was written during the tour for the Raconteurs' wishy-washy 2006 debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, which the band recorded before they had even played a live show. The difference is immediately noticeable: Starting with the opening title track, these new songs announce a rawer aesthetic, more willing to indulge strange tempo and time-signature changes and to make better use of a greater array of instruments, most notably the Memphis Horns. Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence, both of garage rockers the Greenhornes, prove themselves a supremely tight and versatile rhythm section, allowing co-frontmen White and Brendan Benson to execute any idea that comes into their minds.
As on Soldiers, though, White stands out even on the songs where he doesn't sing. He may be one of the few pop-music figures whose defiant eccentricity matches his enduring celebrity, and he pushes "Salute Your Solution" and "Carolina Drama" along with his unpredictable guitar work and excitable vocals. By comparison, Benson sounds overwhelmed and indistinct on songs like "Many Shades of Black" and "Attention." The imbalance is unavoidable, but it doesn't prevent the Raconteurs from being a band that upends classic rock and marketing tropes with directness, intensity, or even personality. — SD