Time is a miserable thing.
Don’t look at me like that. You know this to be true. Just this week, as you were handing out your holiday gifts, you caught yourself for a fleeting moment wondering if you left a gift back in the closet at home. You didn’t. You gave that gift last year, only it feels like just last week to you. You’ll be dying Easter eggs any day now.
The first album by The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers, came out in 2006, two years before the Great Recession and twelve whole years ago. It spawned the hit “Steady As She Goes.” You wondered what effect this new band with Jack White might have on his regular gig. (Tip: One year later, Icky Thump would be The White Stripes’ last studio record.) If you follow these bands, I’ll bet you’re wondering where all that time went.
The Raconteurs had a brief run, tacking on a second full length: 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely. After that, White focused on The Dead Weather and eventually put out three solo records. Brendan Benson went back to releasing memorable solo albums with a classic rock/power pop feel. Jack Lawrence stayed on with The Dead Weather while Patrick Keeler found a variety of sideman roles including a stint with the reformed Afghan Whigs.
And now they’re back, first with a “double a-side” single and, sometime in 2019, a full album release.
This is probably an appropriate time to say that I wasn’t a fan of White’s last solo album, Boarding House Reach (2017), nor have I been able to gravitate fully to 2012’s Blunderbuss or 2014’s Lazaretto. I’ve felt for some time that, without a restraining influence to keep him in check, White wanders. He chases his impulses – not a bad thing, really – but in the end, listeners need to reconcile with where he found himself, and it tends to feel like a shared confusion. To me, he was never clearer, more focused, or more effective than he was with The Raconteurs.
There’s a reason for it. Brendan Benson is a great songwriter, and his temperament is a reliable foil to White’s. After all, “Steady As She Goes,” a tense power pop rocker, was Benson at the front. You can see these two sides clearly on this new double a-side single. White handles the Detroit rocker “Sunday Driver” while Benson navigates the bluesy “Now That You’re Gone.” Benson exacts structure while White likes to occasionally freak out. When one goes too far into their comfort zone, the other taps them back into line. It’s a good combination.
As a quartet, Lawrence, Keeler, Benson, and White deliver. I was skeptical upon hearing they were reforming for the as-of-yet untitled album, but I’ve had a week to absorb the two new songs and I’m happy to say I look forward to it. (The two songs are available as a 45 RPM 7″, but only if you are enrolled in Third Man Records’ subscription club.) The tracks are far more committed than your average “ya gotta break up to make up” reunion-tour-eventual second split. This is a welcome bit of news for the year to come and a fair reason to hope time speeds by for a change.