Pin It

The Raconteurs transcend the members' other bands 

Wednesday, Apr 16 2008
Comments

"The one thing I hate is being labeled a side project," Jack White complained to the Austin Chronicle in August 2006, mere hours before the Raconteurs served as the house band for the MTV Video Music Awards. "We've invested too much time and effort into this band to be considered a side project."

Moments later, songwriting cohort Brendan Benson echoed White's sentiments with the same sort of call-and-response delivery that defines much of the Raconteurs' rock 'n' roll. "We're very serious about trying to forge an identity as a band separate from the Greenhornes and that sort of thing," he said. "How would we even play a White Stripes song anyways?"

Thankfully, that question remains unanswered. Since forming the Raconteurs in 2005, White and Benson have never attempted to replicate their past successes, instead assimilating and accentuating each other's strengths. The enigmatic, engaging White Stripes frontman lays down thundering blues guitar and bewitching vocals, while Benson, conversely, bears a sharper sense of melody and pop dynamics. The duo is rounded out by bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler of Cincinnati-based garage-rock revivalists the Greenhornes, whom White had previously tapped as the rhythm section for Loretta Lynn's 2004 comeback, Van Lear Rose.

The Raconteurs' 2006 debut, Broken Boy Soldier, was recorded at Benson's East Grand Studio in Detroit and marched like a seven-nation army, split evenly between vintage psych nuggets and Benson's melodramatic ballads. Yet the album was a bit undeveloped, a mere snapshot of the budding group's potential. "What you hear on the album is the idea for a song, while the songs themselves are always evolving and changing as we grow as a band," Benson explained at the time. "The record captures the band in a very early stage, which was important to us because we'll never have the opportunity to sound like that again."

Relocating to Nashville, the Raconteurs cut their recent follow-up, Consolers of the Lonely, which was rushed to stores following its completion in the first week of March. The album displays an immediate focus, beginning with the caterwauling one-two crunch of opener "Consoler of the Lonely" and first single "Salute Your Solution," which find White and Benson ricocheting leads with sweltering fervor.

Freed from the self-imposed confines of the Stripes' façade, White explores his eccentricities like never before, adding pixelated organ lines and scorching guitar solos to "Hold Up" and delving into Zeppelin folk ("Old Enough"), and dustbowl blues ("Top Yourself"), while the Benson-led epic "The Switch and the Spur" mixes Morricone spaghetti-Western noir with the epic progressions of the Moody Blues. The rendition of Terry Reid's "Rich Kid Blues" tops the band's take on Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" for the strongest cover in the Raconteurs' canon.

Back in 2006, White warned, "We don't ever want people to expect anything from us. We've never played the same set twice, and you never know what we're going to do next." Consolers of the Lonely doesn't quite equal the sum of the Raconteurs' creative parts but remains the strongest and most diverse album from any of these players in years, which should be enough to finally shake the side-project label.

About The Author

Austin Powell

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed