January 07, 2022

The Raconteurs - Help Us Stranger (2019)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: TMR 600

© 2019 TMR 600
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. One of its considerable pleasures is how Brendan Benson encourages Jack White to stick to a strict outline and color within the lines, trends the latter largely abandoned on his willfully obtuse 2018 album Boarding House Reach. There are jokes and asides peppered throughout Help Us Stranger -- the best of these is an intentional skip at the start of the title track, the kind of thing that will drive vinyl freaks batty upon the initial listen -- but the album is distinguished by its velocity, a momentum delivered as much through writing as it is through performance. Whether they're stitching together individual ideas or writing in tandem, Benson and White are full collaborators, honing their hooks and melodies so they're gleamingly lean, then they dress up these handsome bones with squalls of guitar, vintage synths, campfire acoustics, ghostly piano, gypsy violin, and thundering rhythms. On the surface, the sound may seem as retro as the record's tight 42-minute running time, but that's where the Raconteurs' dedication to craft comes into play. The group intentionally works with old tools so they can fit within an album-rock tradition, yet they have little interest in re-creating the past. Apart from a hypercharged cover of Donovan's "Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)," none of the songs bear hallmarks of another time; the tunes teem with modern-day ennui, right down to White's gripes about cell phones. Despite this contemporary flair, what keeps Help Us Stranger lively is how the Raconteurs blend and mix barbed pop and blues skronk so their classicism seems fresh, not stale.

tags: the raconteurs, help us stranger, 2019, flac,


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