Release Date: Jun 21, 2019
Record label: Third Man Records
After a gap of 11 years, The Raconteurs finally return with their third album, Help Us Stranger. The White Stripes were still active when Jack White joined forces with solo artist Brendan Benson (sharing songwriting and lead vocals), backed by The Greenhornes' rhythm section Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, to form their supergroup. The first two albums - Broken Boy Soldiers in 2006, followed two years later by Consolers Of The Lonely - were critical and commercial successes, but the prolific White in particular became involved in different projects.
On the first album in over a decade from Jack White and Brendan Benson's The Raconteurs, the supergroup return with a smooth and bluesy ride to provide a very analogue record for a digital world Jack White does not own a mobile phone. He says he never has and never will, to avoid falling under the "addiction" driven by "competition, voyeurism and jealousy". He has never known the dizzying rush of a tasty drop on Candy Crush, the maddening bewilderment of 89 unread WhatsApp messages of a group chat attempting to arrange a basic function, the morbid curiosity of a friend's inebriated karaoke over blurry arena gig Insta stories; nor will he ever hear music through the tinny rattle of loose airpods as he navigates his way through the Spotify algorithm's black hole.
Reconvening after a decade's absence, the Raconteurs resemble nothing less than a guild of craftsman united by taste and work ethic on their third album, Help Us Stranger. Ever since their debut, the quartet displayed a shared love for the rock and pop made before the advent of MTV, and while they've never abandoned an aesthetic steeped in FM radio, they've gotten livelier with each passing LP. Which isn't to say Help Us Stranger is a slack, loose affair.
Twilight of the gods. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Raconteurs, because they taught me to temper my expectations at a young age. Growing through my teenage years, there were few artists I admired more than Jack White and loved more than Brendan Benson. The White Stripes' earlier records remain deeply imprinted into my brainstem, more a primeval force of nostalgia than artistic statements.
The gloss of celebrity served the Raconteurs well in the late aughts--"the White Stripes are dying, long live Jack White's new radio-rock band!" But 11 years after the band's last album, the novelty has faded and the Michiganers--Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler alongside White himself--have found themselves floating in a weightless, haughty bliss, through a perpetual 2008. Help Us Stranger must now contend with the strength of a new indie rock field, and the mere fact of White's affiliation is not nearly as compelling as it once was. The Raconteurs make the strongest case for themselves through competent, workmanlike song construction.
Always Jack White's most melodic project, his partnership with Brendan Benson's bubblegum pop and the Greenhornes rhythm section makes for a bracingly addictive listen. Opening with the stabbing guitar lines of 'Bored And Razed' the record plunges into ragged acoustic strut on near title cut 'Help Me Stranger' before seguing into the pensive, palatial Benson-sung 'Only Child'. Picking up exactly where they left off, The Raconteurs' denim-clad early '70s reference points are in check, delivered in gleeful, exuberant, electrifying fashion.