Following eleven years of near-complete hiatus, The Raconteurs, fronted by the illustrious Jack White, have returned with Help Us Stranger. This time around, Help Us Stranger delivers a sound much more rooted in the Blues and Garage Rock prevalent in the 1960s and 70s. While there’s obviously more to The Raconteurs than their frontman, these same influences are unsurprisingly all too familiar with White’s solo work and other projects.
Throughout the album, genres can range from Soft Rock ballads to the slightest hint of The White Stripes in their most ferocious moments. But to clarify on the latter, Help Us Stranger’s voice is that of The Raconteurs’, through and through. Help Us Stranger seems to more or less pick up where the group left off, despite the significant gap in release date. The addition of a Donovan cover, while somewhat unexpected, certainly makes sense in regards to the record’s roots, as well.
As touched on beforehand, the fact that, after eleven years of no studio output, The Raconteurs can pick up their instruments and play just as cohesively and forward-moving as their modern contemporaries is impressive, to say the least. The group has been able to place themselves in a mindset very similar to 2008’s Consolers Of The Lonely, but then with a visible yet smooth transition into the territory of Help Us Stranger. Unlike Jack White’s controversially experimental Boarding House Reach, Help Us Stranger is a bit more logical in its direction, which can be viewed as a plus for longtime fans. All in all, it’s your standard Raconteurs album.
And yet, that’s one of its biggest problems. Help Us Stranger is disappointingly safe in sound. In his semi-famous feud with The Black Keys, White compared their music to the generic, faux-edgy soundtracks of car commercials. In a sad twist of irony, Help Us Stranger does arguably push that same description at some points in the record. In even its most energetic moments, it can feel like a rather underwhelming collection of Jack White’s B-side riffs. Perhaps it’s White’s naturally overpowering and infectious creative energy, but Help Us Stranger does also leave something to be desired in terms of the presence of the rest of The Raconteurs. Save a few instances, this ultimately leaves the album as mostly indistinct from a Jack White solo effort, minus all the cool experimentalism that makes it unique.
In a bit larger view of Help Us Stranger, it’s not a textbook bad album. It’s just inordinately safe to the blandest degree, nothing that truly compares to White’s days with The White Stripes, and certainly not the album that’s going to “bring back Rock”, as some may have mistakenly hoped. It’s reliable and not too “out there” for sure, but those two characteristics are exactly what Rock could use less of nowadays. For those looking for an easy listen to pass the time, Help Us Stranger will do the job, as will many of the other countless, generic modern rock releases of this era.
Rad Songs: Now That You’re Gone, Don’t Bother Me
Not So Rad Songs: Shine The Light On Me, Thoughts And Prayers
Help Us Stranger is streaming everywhere now.