Bob Dylan once said, “the times they are a-changin’,” and indeed, it is a phrase that could best describe the state of today’s music industry. Last fall, Radiohead shook things up by letting fans choose how much to pay for its new album, while Nine Inch Nails just released an online collection of instrumentals that offers buyers various pricing options for different versions of the album. Following suit with these experimental paradigm shifts, The Raconteurs rush-released its new album, “Consolers of the Lonely.”
While most bands spend months promoting and advertising its new albums, The Raconteurs opted for the contrary by releasing “Consolers” mere weeks after its completion with no promotion or press. They announced the release date one week prior to hitting store shelves. Some speculate The Raconteurs rushed the album release to prevent an online leak that would hurt album sales, although the band adamantly denies this. Regardless of the intentions, it’s another example of bands taking chances as the traditional model of releasing albums comes into question.
As much attention as this story is getting, the music is what really deserves one’s undivided attention. On this eclectic 14-song set, Jack White and company mix it up with everything from hard, gritty rockers to blues ditties with hints of country and rockabilly. “Consolers” kicks off with straight-ahead, crunchy guitar rock on the opening title track and “Salute Your Solution,” a rousing stomper that doesn’t stop for breaths, featuring old-school solos and distorted riffs that are sure to make it a concert staple.
For the most part, the faster, upbeat tracks suggest a punk rock immediacy of The Ramones infused with blues and classic rock, especially on the frenetic “Hold Up” and “Five On The Five,” where the electric guitars go wild in a way that would make Led Zeppelin seem tame. Here, The Raconteurs exhibit an unparalleled rawness with its arsenal of rough guitars, fuzzy bass and crashing drums that ups the energy level without compromising cohesion, creating controlled pandemonium that would make these songs truly flourish in a live setting.
Yet, there is a Southern flavor and warmth on the slower, down-tempo tunes that balance out the heavier tracks. “Top Yourself” has a country-fried, bluegrass tinge complete with banjos and slide guitar that conjure images of Appalachia and all things backcountry, while the folksy “Carolina Drama” integrates Celtic music laden with violins and mandolins. A further display of the album’s rich musical diversity, the all-encompassing “Rich Kid Blues” begins softly with semi-psychedelic acoustic guitar and organ before building a crescendo that brings back the feel of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and strains of The Who, a true ode to the best of the 1970s.
While his lyrics don’t exactly turn heads or raise eyebrows, Jack White’s voice has a sense of urgency that demands attention as his theatrical nature includes wails and screams that give the songs an extra edge. However, he maintains clarity and smoothness, which makes softer moments such as the tender piano ballad, “You Don’t Understand Me” relaxing and pleasing on the ears, showcasing White’s wide vocal range that puts him in the elite group of rock’s most talented vocalists.
The idea of releasing the album to everyone at the same time and letting listeners judge the music for what it is without any bias from critics reviews or advertising hype is a refreshing approach that makes the listening experience more honest and satisfying. Although this strategy may not bode well for up-and-coming bands that often need promotion and media exposure to build a fan base, The Raconteurs are reinstating the importance of a holistic album listening experience to hopefully change the way people approach music and stray from the piecemeal approach of picking and choosing songs that dominates today’s musical climate.