Review: The Raconteurs: Help Us Stranger

After more than 10 years, the Raconteurs has released its new album Help Us Stranger.



The Raconteurs, Brendan Benson (left), Jack White (center), Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums, perform at the Fillmore in Detroit, Michigan, Saturday, June 7, 2008. (Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

After more than 10 years away, the Raconteurs has taken a step in the contemporary world with the style and gusto the band does best.

Raconteur lead songwriter and guitarist Jack White of the White Stripes and Brendan Benson take the reins again in Help Us Stranger after 11 years since their last album.

During their time away, both have released a handful of solo albums and side-group projects, and it truly shows in this return album. The songs on Help Us Stranger show a band that has evolved and changed over time. The artists don’t try to re-create what they did a decade ago, they make something different instead. The evolution of both sound and style is not a slight on the album, though — with a fresh and new sound, Help Us Stranger is a shining example of 2019’s alternative genre.

The group matches the elusive definition of alternative very well, with both melding of folk, rock, and electronic coming into play. Songs such as “Bored and Razed,” “Sunday Driver,” and “Live a Lie” are made from the same fabric as the punk-rock sound of the early 2000s and the strong backbone of White’s iconic electric guitar sound.

Songs such as “Only Child,” “Thoughts and Prayers,” and “Shine the Light on Me” bring the flair of the folk genre that has been with fhe band since its first album. It may be bizarre to hear slow-ball tracks with violins sprinkling throughout the background, but it works. The fast-paced punk songs are exciting for any rock album, but this one really shines when it slows down and lets the lead singer’s ballads take center stage. Songs such as “Some Days (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” showcase the vocal harmonies of the group, melding the two voices of White and Benson.

“Now That You’re Gone” is one track that feels especially sensitive. Benson’s doo-wop-esque vocals paired with the deep, tightening bass start the track slowly, then adds slicing rifts of White’s electric guitar as it slowly builds to a cymbal bash that launches it into a car-cruising classic.

With the group being White’s third, it is surprising to see him create not just music but also deepen his already diverse sound. Benson is also an artist who has created a life well outside of the group, but when the two songwriter/musicians get together, exciting and groundbreaking music is created. Help Us Stranger showcases the best of two of rock ’n’ roll’s best minds at work.

The album shows the anger, loneliness, and volcanically bipolar nature of the age we live in. It asks us to try to come together, and it asks to Help Us Stranger.