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The Black Keys
Attack + Release
Nonesuch Records
www.theblackkeys.com


The Black Keys from Akron, Ohio (home to legendary acts like Devo and The Pretenders) are not your typical blues rock band. First off, they are only two, Patrick Carney (drums) and Dan Auerbach (guitar/vocals), secondly, they did not grow in hardship (Carney's uncle is avant garde jazz saxophonist Ralph Carney and Auerbach's uncle is Robert Quine, guitarist for New York first generation punk immortals Richard Hell And The Voidoids) and lastly, thanks to non-stop touring, blistering live shows and their new record, Attack + Release, they have found acceptance on mainstream "alternative" radio. Mainstream Alternative radio…. That sounds like an oxymoron or at the very least a paradox… anyway…

I have been a fan of The Black Keys' brand of blues since their very first self- produced Alive Records release, The Big Come Up. Come Up has a raw, rockin' far off in the distance sound, reminiscent of Hendrix and Cream slamming head long into one another that sucks the listener into the little vinyl grooves, never to fully return. Next came Thickfreakness, an album of thundering drums, incendiary guitars and some real booty shakers like " Hard Row", "Set You Free" and "Have Love Will Travel". This album is nearly as good as Come Up. Then came, in quick succession, Rubber Factory (it was recorded in a abandoned tire plant) and Magic Potion. Though both of these records have very bright spots and are worth your time and hard earned cash, they don't quite live up to the kickassness laid down by their first two records.

Now, this brings me to Attack + Release, an album helmed by uber-producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley), the first Black Keys release not produced by Pat Carney. Though having Danger Mouse on board to produce your record will help in name recognition, when listening to Attack, Danger Mouse's presence hurts the band's sound more than it helps. "Strange Times", the record's first single, and "I Got Mine" are classic Black Keys with the exception of the creepy Vincent Price movie organ groove on "Strange Times". The track "Psychotic Girl" spins a familiar tale to which 98% of the world's male population can relate. "Remember When" will be automatically noticeable to any Black Keys follower; the entire album should have been as solid as "I Got Mine" and "Remember When" - if it had it would of put this reviewer in a better place. But sadly, the album grinds to a halt when Danger Mouse throws too much into the production. With the addition of rock flute (yes, I said rock flute), weird vocal doubling effects and probably the kitchen sink, about half of this record sounds like the blues album Beck would make if he actually knew anything about the blues.

I'm sure that Attack + Release will be the album that will push the Black Keys up to the surface from their spot in the underground caves of the "indie" world. It will more than likely make them famous and they deserve it. Attack + Release is a decent enough album; nothing mind-blowing, but worth a listen nonetheless. But the greater significant of this album is that it will inspire people to go and discover the Black Keys' earlier work; that, my friends, is where the true greatness lies.

-Danny R. Phillips

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