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THE SABOTEURS Help Us Stranger gets 8/10


The Saboteurs
Help Us Stranger
Third Man Records

8/10

The Saboteurs (aka The Raconteurs everywhere but Australia) last released an album 11 years ago and fans worldwide despaired that we would never again hear any new material from them, let alone get another album. Of course, the biggest question for most people about the Jack White side band now is “was it worth the wait?”

With 11 years of additional experience under their belt, this album is more defined and really shows that growth and maturity so much more than if they had put out an album only a few years later. Whilst it is something to be expected with so many years in between albums, the difference between Help Us Stranger and 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers (and in turn 2008 second album Consolers of the Lonely) is remarkable.

Bored and Raised starts off quietly and slowly – building that anticipation until the beat just hits you in the face. The song doesn’t let up and keeps that fast, furious pace and leaves you feeling satisfied at the end. Help Me Stranger starts off gospel style – it makes you stop and question as to whether you’ve got the same band playing… and then the record starts skipping before the true song starts. It’s pure genius.

They slow things down with Only Child. It’s a beautiful song and really showcases Brendan Benson’s vocals. The opening line “Only child, only son, treated like a criminal ever since day one” sets the scene perfectly and expertly manipulates those heartstrings. Giving you no time to gather your thoughts or your wits, Don’t Bother Me reaches out and aurally assaults your eardrums (in the most pleasing way). It’s hard, fast, angry and makes you want to just start jumping around in a mosh pit. Shine The Light On Me takes it down a notch. It’s powerful, emotive and this song in particular showcases just how far they have all come as musicians.

Jack White and Brendan Benson are definitely experts when it comes to playing with your emotions through their music. Somedays I Don’t Feel Like Trying is a perfect example of that – especially since we all have days like this. It’s a perfect mix of heavy beats, acoustic guitars, strong lyrics and makes you want to waltz around the room singing as loud as you can.

Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) is the only song on the album that they didn’t write, written and performed by Donovan back in 1965. The Saboteurs have taken it and made it their own. It’s a song that you just cannot sit still to and will have you dancing like no one is watching from the second it starts. Sunday Driver and Now That You’re Gone teased us with The Saboteurs return and gave us hope for a new album in the first place. These songs will always have a special place in fans’ hearts.

With each track, White and Benson’s individual ‘signatures’ come through strongly. Live A Lie and What’s Yours Is Mine are perfect examples of this, especially What’s Yours with White’s signature bass. The album ends with Thoughts And Prayers, a beautifully thought-provoking song; sweet, soft, intense… and it’s the right song to end on.

Having had to wait 11 years for a new album, expectations were extremely high for Help Us Stranger. Thankfully it’s all killer – no filler, and Help Us Stranger was definitely worth the wait. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to wait as long next time, I don’t know that our hearts will cope.

KAREN LOWE

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