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Dave Lindquist

CD of The Week

Week of 6/24/19

    The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger (Third Man)

    Last year, Jack White released his third solo album, Boarding House Reach. It turned out to be the most experimental record in his expansive catalog, long on interesting sounds but short on memorable songs. So of course, his next move was to zig-zag back in the opposite direction and get back together with his pals The Raconteurs. White, veteran singer-songwriter Brendan Benson and their rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler hadn't put out a Raconteurs record in well over a decade, but a new collection of tracks from these old friends sounds good right about now.

    Help Us Stranger kicks off with "Bored and Razed" and it's great just to hear Jack and Brendan's voices intertwining once again, with Benson on the chorus and White taking the verses. While White has been incredibly prolific, hearing new music from the talented, underrated Benson is welcome as well, since he hasn't put out an album since 2013. "Only Child" and "Now That You're Gone" showcase his way with a melody. His tune, "Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying)," brings in some country twang but with Jack's massive guitars piled on top. It's a clear-eyed look at depression with the mantra of "I'm here right now/I'm not dead yet" repeated triumphantly to close it out.

    The roaring "Don't Bother Me" is closest to White's solo songs, a rocking rant with the cranky lyric "All your clicking and swiping/All your groping and griping. Because it isn't a Jack White record anymore if he doesn't lean into his anti-modern technology reputation at some point.

    "Help Me Stranger" (not "Help Us" like the album title) is a shuffling strummy track and lead single "Sunday Driver" is full of wild riffing from White. Help Us Stranger doesn't end with anything as epic as 2008's Consolers of the Lonely, which wrapped with the massive murder ballad "Carolina Drama." Instead, "Thoughts and Prayers" is a fiddle-filled meditation on that clich├ęd platitude and the state of the world. White and Benson sing, "Now the earth has turned to gray / There's got to be a better way / To talk to God and hear her say / There are reasons why it is this way."

    The very first White Stripes record just turned 20 years old last week and it's wild to see how far Jack White has come. From sitting in his little room with his "big sister" Meg to this full-fledged rock band, his love of making music continues to shine through. Help Us Stranger is the sound of four friends getting the band back together to have fun and play some rock and roll and there's nothing strange about that.

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    Review by Joey O.

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