Rock giants The Raconteurs and The Black Keys make brilliant comeback

American rock band The Raconteurs comprise (from far left) Jack Lawrence, Jack White, Patrick Keeler and Brendan Benson.
American rock band The Raconteurs comprise (from left) Jack Lawrence, Jack White, Patrick Keeler and Brendan Benson. PHOTO: DAVID JAMES SWANSON
Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach (far left) with drummer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys.
Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach (left) with drummer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. PHOTO: ALYSSE GAFKJEN

The Raconteurs and The Black Keys return with the satisfying, exuberant sounds of proper rock 'n' roll

Released within a week of each other, the new albums by American garage rock juggernauts The Raconteurs (Help Us Stranger) and The Black Keys (Let's Rock) might seem like anachronisms.

With guitars that are as conspicuous as the vocals and melodies, the retro, organic quality of the songs stands in contrast to the electronic-tinged pop and hip-hop that occupy the top 10 of today's major music charts.

The two albums also share some uncanny similarities. While it might be no surprise that both were recorded in Nashville, renowned as a music recording centre, some of the song titles are so similar that conspiracy theorists will have a field day wondering if the past rivalry between The Raconteurs' Jack White and The Black Keys has resurfaced.

For example, while Help Us Stranger has the tunes Shine The Light On Me and Live A Lie, Let's Rock has Shine A Little Light and Tell Me Lies.

Similitudes aside, both releases are prime examples of the raw and visceral release that one can experience through proper rock 'n' roll records.


    The Raconteurs

    Third Man
    4 Stars

Help Us Stranger, The Raconteurs' third album, comes 11 years after previous record Consolers Of The Lonely (2008).

Multi-Grammy-winning White might have a near-mythical status in rock circles, thanks to his The White Stripes legacy, his Third Man record empire and acclaimed solo and collaborative works.

But as the new album shows, a record by The Raconteurs is more than the sum of its parts.

Co-frontman Brendan Benson is just as prominent as White as singer, guitarist and songwriter, his penchant for melody and hooks a perfect foil to White's unfettered brilliance.

Fat, bluesy guitar riffs fly fast and furious, anchored by the adroit rhythm section powered by bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler.

It is an album that hits many buttons, from the jittery swagger of Bored And Razed and the blooming psychedelia of Only Child to the squealing attack of What's Yours Is Mine and the heartbreak blues of Now That You're Gone.

The Black Keys' Let's Rock, named after the last words of Tennessee's first convict to be executed on the electric chair, marks the welcome return of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney.


    The Black Keys

    Easy Eye Sound/ Nonesuch
    3.5 Stars

There is a prevailing sense of exuberance to the songs, with major chord progressions and lively backing vocals propping up even the downer lyrics in tracks such as the stuttering Lo/Hi and honky-tonk tune Sit Around And Miss You.

There is also a new stereoscopic sheen to their sound, from the glam-rock stylings of Eagle Birds to the sitar flourishes in Breaking Down to the handclaps in Fire Walk With Me.

The pop ornamentation makes for a fun listen, but you also miss the rough, lo-fi charm of their earlier albums.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Rock giants make brilliant comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe