It’s true enough that his “second band” the Raconteurs provides Jack White with an outlet to fix whatever portion of his ’70s jones is left unsated by his number-one outfit, the White Stripes—every song on the Raconteurs’ new platter Consolers of the Lonely is fairly spilling over with paisley remnants of Me-decade reverie, nods to the Faces and first-generation funk and Elton John and even shit like Seals and Kroft, fergawdsakes, in addition to the expected maneuvers appropriated from Zep and the Stones and the Kinks. From the powerful opening kick of the title cut, the Racs’ second release comes off like a sampler platter of classic FM radio highlights; so groovy, groove-laden and shades-down cool, it makes you want to slip on something less comfortable—maybe something in loud polyester—clap on a pair of headphones the size of mutant conch shells and mellow down easy on the orange Pucci print sectional sofa, doobie in hand.
But what separates the Raconteurs from so many other latter-day throwback rockers—most of whom seem poised in an attitude of almost slavish authenticity—is the essential Jack White-ness of it all—the braying, half-spoken vocal or the strangled guitar riff or the peculiarly White-ian turn of phrase. It lends the Racs’ work a certain occasionally irksome sameness, but it also marks this particular brand of retro as distinctly their own. The story-song narratives on “The Switch and the Spur” and “Carolina Drama,” for instance, are unmistakably the product of you-know-who, never mind the heavy layers of vintage sonics or the fact that the lyrics on “Switch” conjure the lone rider of America’s “Horse With No Name.” (Or is it Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind”? Shudder to think.)
But it’s all for the good: Consolers of the Lonely is great fun, in large part because Jack’s obviously having great fun doing it. No longer making more with less, as he and Meg so often do in the White Stripes, the Raconteurs is White’s chance to do more with more.