”I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Sunset Boulevard’s unhinged silver-screen diva Norma Desmond spoke these immortal words more than half a century ago, but the claim could easily transpose itself to Consolers of the Lonely, a brawny, joyful plundering of the classic-rock catalog. Where other indie-rooted artists laboriously perfect their tributes to the same few touchstones — the Velvet Underground, Pixies, Sonic Youth — Jack White, Brendan Benson, and their fellow Raconteurs hitch country and long-haired funk to a boisterous blooze-rock wagon with nary a nod to subtlety or art-school cool.
White’s always had a thing for burly Zeppelin riffs and Opryland theatrics, of course — the White Stripes were built on these well-worn blocks, as was the Raconteurs’ ‘06 debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, and its hit ”Steady, as She Goes.” Here, piano chords shudder and leap, guitars slither, horns roll in like storm clouds. Bad Company, Queen, and the Guess Who shake hands on muscular anthems like ”Many Shades of Black,” ”Rich Kid Blues,” and ”Hold Up,” while Waylon Jennings ghost-rides on the back-porch ballad ”Carolina Drama”; it’s as if the boys are channeling a high school parking lot’s history of doobies, Trans Ams, and RadioShack subwoofers into one glorious blast. The result is neither refined nor especially modern, but it still evokes the thrill of playing hooky on a Friday afternoon. B+
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