In the midst of modern alt rock, if you ever feel a missing piece of the genre’s pie- which doesn’t scratch your itch despite its strong presence on streaming playlists, you may be suffering from Post Jack White Nostalgia, or “PJWN.” After he disbanded the White Stripes and his subsequent band The Raconteurs took a break to focus on The Dead Weather, White also took his style and unique vocals which blanketed our teenage or early twenties rock phase which, let’s face it, we never got out of.
Of course, we recognize his work in The Dead Weather and as a solo artist, but The White Stripes and The Raconteurs were quintessentially White in his essence, and you can’t argue with me on that. The Raconteurs were a smooth transition from TWS minimalism into a band with the same roots, but open ideas and adapting more of an alt/indie rock tone that was classic and defining of 2006-2008. The Raconteurs embraced White’s rhythm, but with more instrumentation and single-use sound effects. We saw a formulaic change; it was fresh and interesting, and they were growing in popularity- but then it came to a halt.
So, you can imagine when over a month ago they released the single Help Me Stranger, I dropped everything to grace my ears and it’s safe to say I was not disappointed. I’ll put it this way- immediately we are at a star-rating higher than their album Consolers of the Lonely a decade ago. We are hit with clear, crisp production and instrumentation that is -dare I say it- groovy. My reaction after finding myself humming the chorus on my route to work was that this may be their best single yet. After an eleven-year hiatus, it is unusual to find such a strong comeback which digs further into the genre, rather than out.
Bored and Razed comes up next and is a perfect fusion of old and new- if you listen closely, you can hear Jack White in his musical prime, but an adaptation to alt rock as it is in 2019 is present. Despite this, Sunday Driver dives fully into the old- if you played this and told me it was early noughties, I wouldn’t question it. Simplistic but not dull, Sunday Driver delivers as expected with a confident middle section with mild psychedelic elements- one you could imagine a Karinding or Ozark harp and it wouldn’t be out of place- yet it fits. Another hit that caught my eye (or ear) was Don’t Bother Me which struck me due to its chaotic full-on intro which sounded eerily consistent with Meg White’s drumming style.
Bored and Razed along with Help Me Stranger, together are a solid and promising two tracks which have set a consistent tone for the full EP, which is reinstated further by the fact that Help Me Stranger has already surpassed ANY of its predecessors in terms of positive YouTube presence.
They even blessed us with snippets from further tracks such as What’s Yours is Mine via their YouTube commentary, explaining the creative processes behind them.
From the get-go, you can hear four stars worth due to the production quality, instrumentation and structure of Help Me Stranger in itself- the rest are a feast for the ears that only encapsulates a strong album with teenies alt rock fully present at the party. However, an additional half star must be added- accounting for the perfect combo of old classic instrumentation, as well as promising new rhythm dynamics which weren’t present previously.
In short, this is an album we didn’t expect, but definitely needed.