July 14, 2019

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger Review

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger Review

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger Review

After 11 years, the Jack White-led blues-rock band The Raconteurs finally released their follow up album to 2008's Consolers of The Lonely, Help Us Stranger, on June 21st of this year. As far as why the long wait stretched beyond a span of a decade may be due to lead guitarist Brenden Benson's solo music career, as well as the prolific post-White Stripes career of Jack White, who leads his own solo act as well as another blues-rock band, The Dead Weather. The time between both of these albums was so long that most fans were pretty certain that there might not have been another album coming, especially since the reports were unlikely as far back as 2015 that there was hardly any new material recorded at all, according to Benson in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. Finally, in 2019, The Raconteurs surprise their fans with the release of their third album, the hard-rocking, and blues-licking, Help Me Stranger.

Bored and Razed makes for an unassuming opening riff that repeats until it crescendos into a familiar hard rock groove with White's unmistakable, defiant, yelling vocals. There's not a whole lot to latch onto in this opening bit, as it has a pretty standardized formula that any fan of rock n' roll will enjoy with quiet enthusiasm, and the album really doesn't pick up the pace until their title (is it though?) track, Help Me Stranger. This second song pulls up its britches and presents such a colorful blend of percussion, guitar melodies, and verse-chord structure, that there is something to be said for the combined songwriting talents of Bensen and White, which is something that can't be heard on any other White or Benson-related release. It hits an exalted high point early on in Help Us Stranger, which the album has to continue to try to match or exceed for the remainder of its runtime, which it more or less succeeds.

Only Child slows down to showcase the storytelling ambitions of these two guitarists, as they sing about the prodigal son coming home. It is a satisfying melody once again and filled with familiar themes found in other songs such as leaving everything behind and forging a new life. It is accentuated by neat, buzzy organ work that makes it complete. As soon as it's over, Don't Bother Me explodes into a loud and bustling outburst of a tune that White has been known to make in his other bands, The Dead Weather, and The White Stripes. Its makeup is frenetic and stylized with heavy-effected guitars and a defiant, repeated, vocal shout, "Don't bother me!"

Shine The Light on Me and Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying) are softer and more self-reflective as the album crosses into the back half. Other highlights include Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), their single Sunday Driver, and the loud and distorted What's Yours is Mine, but the real high point is reached again as the band comes to their final song, Thoughts and Prayers. White and Benson slow the group down for a traditional sounding, folky, blues tune that has great acoustics and lyrics. It succeeds at producing a great string crescendo with their assorted instruments and brings the album to a satisfying finish.

Help Us Stranger is a welcome return from a band that had ghosted their fans for 11 years long. Jack White, never truly revealing what The Raconteurs had been up to, was always busy producing work with The Dead Weather and as a solo artist since 2009 and 2012 respectively. Their collaborative efforts to put out a brand new album in 2019 might not have been needed, but it is an enjoyable listen nonetheless to give fans another fresh dose of bluesy, garage rock and roll.

Help Us Stranger - 7.8/10

Recommended Tracks: Help Me Stranger, Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying), Thoughts And Prayers