The Raconteurs

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

The White Stripes’ electrifying songcraft is bound inextricably to their bizarre sense of style. This didn’t initially seem to be the case with the Raconteurs, Jack White’s collaboration with songwriter Brendan Benson and an ace rhythm section; their masterful 2006 debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, advanced dangerously hooky rock & roll sans conceptual gimmickry. But the foursome’s sophomore effort, Consolers of the Lonely—released in surprise-attack fashion to ward off leaks and premature appraisals—hews too closely to the sepia-toned pageantry of its cover tableau, exploring a campier, more self-consciously eccentric direction that runs counter to the purity of the band’s initial salvo.

A cleverly cinematic vibe abounds, making tracks like the reverby, mariachi-trumpet-drenched “The Switch and the Spur” and the noirish picaresque “Carolina Drama” seem more like smug genre exercises than solid songs. “Consoler of the Lonely” boasts huge-sounding production and shows off the band’s effortless chops—Patrick Keeler, in particular, is not a drummer to be messed with—but it’s undermined by a scatterbrained structure and cocky studio chatter. When the band privileges emotion over quirk, the results are outstanding: Witness White’s piano-driven kiss-off “You Don’t Understand Me” and Benson’s soul-ballad showstopper “Many Shades of Black.” And White’s possessed turn on “Rich Kid Blues” not only fuses Jagger and Plant but threatens to topple both idols. Consolers of the Lonely confirms that this band is overflowing with talent; the disappointment is hearing it get hung up on the trimmings.

Listen to one sample track from this album.

Consolers of the Lonely (Third Man/Warner Bros.)