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
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
-Danny R. Phillips
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