Words by Eric Gasa
To put it simply, the new Raconteurs album rips, rocks and rolls just like where Jack White and company last left off over a decade ago. The result is a mix of double aughts rock revival intertwined with Van Halen riffs circa 1978 made new again for 2019. With post-White Stripes Jack, anything seems to be possible and Help Us Stranger is no exception. Like most projects, Jack keeps this one close to his heart and ears; a sound totally out of style for today but completely in tune with the worshipping rock purist.
“Bored and Razed” and “Help Me Stranger” serve as the headliners at the beginning of record, the first being a fiery, white-knuckled welcome back from The Raconteurs crew; the second being the bouncy, catchier foil to the prior. But by no means does this make Help Us Stranger top heavy; the record’s spread is an even and impressive catalogue throughout its 41 minutes.
“Somedays” is a big warm slice of American southern rock. The opening Eagles-esque guitar lines streak by like jet contrails in the big blue sky, while the bigger riffs and chorus roll on through like a Zeppelin outtake. It’s a sweet little reunion of what makes rock & roll fun. No frills, no rhinestones, just some guys dedicated to their craft.
For the state of classic rock “I’m here right now, I’m not dead yet,” White sings, and if the genre is anything like the rest of the song, there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank.
For the longtime fans, this new record will be like Christmas day, for some, a dated step back into the age of garage and southern rock. Lyrics really don’t go any deeper than heartbreak, singing sweet nothings, and love lost croons, but White’s focus has always been on the melody and his larger-than-life riffs.
But there is still room for variety, “Shine the Light on Me” finds Jack conducting a bit of a rock opera ala Freddie Mercury.
“Ooh what can we do?” croons the backup vocals.
“Shine the light on me!” responds White.
White bears his voice alongside the ballad-y trickle of a saloon piano and then later the full force of his band.
The band gathers force on the withering “Sunday Driver”. White belts the chorus on what must be his umpteenth song about cars and cheaters. As like most Raconteurs songs it’s the stuff of fist-pumping, arena rock royalty.
A sturdy record with some tried and true tricks up its sleeve, 2008 may have been a long time ago but these guys are still leading from the front of the pack. Help Us Stranger gives fans a welcome hand 11 years in the making.
‘Help Us Stranger’
Third Man Records
© June 21, 2019
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