Three solo albums and three LPs by The Dead Weather have arrived in the 11 years since Jack White last brought The Raconteurs together for Consolers Of The Lonely.
Album three is understandably closest to last year’s solo album Boarding House Reach: since his relatively extended four-year break, White has become more experimental, most notably here on Don’t Bother Me, which sounds not unlike Fozzie Bear being pursued by a wasp and is all the better for it.
Mostly, though, the spirit is the same: hang out, have fun, don’t get too sloppy while you’re jamming ferchrissakes. Only the lazy ballad Only Child could be held up as a band enjoying themselves far more than the listener.
It’s important not to overlook Brendan Benson’s role, too. An excellent power-popper in his own solo career, Benson is surely the driving force in the sugarbomb melody rush of Live A Lie and the Tom Petty slide guitar ballad Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying).
Wherever the credit goes, the album hangs together excellently, flinging influences like George Harrison, Queen and the inevitable Led Zeppelin into a record that has more energy than is feasible for an irregular band at this stage of their career. Hearing Patrick Keeler cut loose on their funked-up reworking of Donovan’s Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) is far more vital than a drum solo should be in 2019.
A word of caution: for a Jack White album, it’s strikingly odd that, since the deluxe Vault package on Third Man’s website stopped taking pre-orders in April, Help Us Stranger is now available only on standard black vinyl. That caveat apart, Help Us Stranger really is as joyful as could be hoped for.