Tag Archives: The Black Keys

524. Black Keys – “El Camino”

Popping out of the Ms for a couple of reviews of purchases that post-date their respective letter.

The Black Keys El Camino Album CoverNot too many albums on here are Grammy winners.  I don’t to buy much from bands who appeal to crusty industry folks.

But this album did win Best Rock Album. Like so many actors and directors who get an award for the film after their really good performances, this opus doesn’t quite reach the heights of my fave Rubber Factory. But it’s the best output from their evolved fuller band, Dangermouse-produced selves.

This already confident band strides through this recording with Kanye-like swagger. They draw upon a greater breadth of styles from across their career, and on one track take the slow-loud blues approach to perhaps it’s eternal apex.

The tune in question is Little Black Submarine which kicks off like a Jack White number and seems to be staying in that heartfelt troubador space for the opening minute before naturally build to a whole new wig out space.  In the end, it’s stunning that it is only a 3:32 track:

I find myself returning to this album very regularly, probably as often as Rubber Factory, which says a lot for its chops.  Here’s to the long-awaited 2014 release.

File under: I’m van hailing

369. The Black Keys – “Brothers”

Here’s one final recent purchase before we dive into H-land.

The Black Keys have a lot to live up to around here, perched as they are atop my ranking list.

They’ve never been reluctant to explore new avenues and move beyond garageland.  While last time, they seemed keener on the experiment than the hits, this time round they have really nailed a new sound, one more soulful and southern.

Dan’s increasingly falsetto vocals match the funkier sound, and some of the grooves are simply irresistable.

I’ve resigned myself to them never retreating back to the simple two-man outfit feeding off huge, pounding drum riffs.  Next Girl and Ten Cent Pistol are probably the closest they get here:

Luckily, even a slightly more staid BKs still kicks the arse of pretty much any outfit out there.

The Blakroc adventure has added a new rhythm-method to the BK arsenal.  Tighten Up is an immediate classic sure to be sampled in the years to come:

This album doesn’t require or prompt the neighbour-raising volumes of their early work. Instead it reflects two music lovers and genuine artists laying down a delicious feast of varied flavours, sweet, spicy and soulful.

File under: Soul Brothers #1 & 2

236. Blakroc – “Blakroc”

I am breaking up the Ani action with a variety of recent purchases from A-Di.  Here’s one I picked up a month of so ago.

The world of side-projects is a minefield for music fans.  Invariably you feel compelled to investigate (and reward) the efforts of favourite artistes, but so very often the output is just a self-indulgent and lesser outcome.

Musicians are want to explore genres and instruments at which they are less adept and less original, and we the consumer/fan bear the brunt. That doesn’t mean we learn our lesson.

When I heard the Black Keys had recorded a whole album of hip hop collaborations I still dashed down to JB HiFi to pick up my copy.

Thankfully this is an album that was worth recording.  The BKs have taken a sufficiently low-key and backseat role in laying down some bluesy riffs and (more substantially) some laidback stoner rhythms for 11 different MCs and R&B singers. By “sufficiently” I mean that they haven’t imposed their style too much.

As such, they have let the masters deliver on their core strengths.  The standouts are Raekwon, Ludacris and Pharoahe Monch:

(For 11 episodes of vids about making the album click on the album pic above)

The latter’s track features a chorus sure to inspire any budding entrepreneur:

“It won’t make dollars if it don’t make sense”

This isn’t dancey hiphop, but rather chilling out, beanbag, frontporch hip hop, and that Black Keys slow grind works perfectly here.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, or to find some new artistic friends to pursue around the music stores (so perfect for the post-Xmas sales).

File under: A tasty side dish

105. Dan Auerbach- “Keep it Hid”

Here’s one more recent purchase in the As…

Dan is the hirsute guitarist and singer with one of my darling bands The Black Keys. This is his solo debut from earlier this year.

dan-auerbach-keep-it-hid-album-coverHe ain’t ventured particularly far from his core business here. The vocals sound slightly softer and get a little more airtime. The vibe is just a little more chilled.

The only real difference is that the drumming is a little further back in the mix and with not quite as much cymbal action (I miss you Patrick). This lack of ‘oomph’ makes it more a lazy afternoon album than some of the more racuous BK output.

Auerbach is definitely a consistent songwriter, and his style doesn’t get too tired. I suspect he could produce an album like this every few months and still keep me pretty happy. It would be great if he took a few more risks or brought in a few collaborators (as with the most recent Keys effort). But if he wants to play around in his studio I’ll probably keep buying.

File under: Solo but still with mojo

78. The Black Keys – “Attack & Release”

There was some trepidation in my world when I heard the Akron twosome had hooked up with superhip producer Dangermouse.  Would he turn them into some sort of disco outfit?  Would they move too far away from their roots?

the-black-keys-attack-release-album-coverThere was no need to fear.  The Risky Rodent did not push them into completely uncharted waters.  The album does sound noticeably different from their earlier works, but in a logical and exciting manner.  Instead of stridently sticking to the guitar and drums combo, there are some new sounds on here – an organ, bells and other tinkly things. The core dynamic is still the rise and fall of the guitar and drums, but the new sounds  do add some refreshing variety.

This album could a load of critics excited when it came out.  It is good to see the lads having fun and making new friends.  It would be even better if they delivered some super catchy tracks.  A few approach single-like status, such as I Got Mine, Strange Times and the closing Things Aint Like They Used To Be, but it does appear that the bigger picture of a coherent soundscape took precedent.

File Under: Mousy rock

77. The Black Keys – “Magic Potion”

I give this a good listen while wandering the streets of Paris.  It went very well with my pain au chocolate, and sounded pretty good on the Metro.

the-black-keys-magic-potion-album-coverPerhaps this reflects it slightly pedestrian tendencies.  Let me qualify that.  This album is somewhat pedestrian by The Black Keys’ standards. The garagey sound is still there, front and centre.  Dan still pulls out some sensational riffs, but several tracks are ever so mellower than elsewhere.

If you hadn’t heard anything else from them, I’m sure this album would still suck you into their world.  Your Touch, Modern Times, and the unusually political (for this duo) Goodbye Babylon and would fit into any ‘greatest hits’ compilation from these lads. The latter tune has some of the band’s best ever guitar/drum/vocal interplays.

So, I guess I’m saying this bejewelled egg is still pretty tasty, but that, at times, it lacks a certain je ne sais qua (pardon my French).

File under: Not quite Getafix quality

76. The Black Keys – “Thickfreakness”

We’re back in world of vinyl, and also stepping back McFly-style into The Black Key’s musical past. 

the-black-keys-thickfreakness-album-coverThis was their second release, and listened to in the shadow of the follow-up Rubber Factory it is even more apparent how much the production effort was raised for that current blog chart-topper.

The approach here is much more basic.  The duo sound more black and more blue here than on any of their other releases. 

Dan’s vocals are muddier – more like grunts than articulated thoughts. The sound is more singular, with a consistent set of riffs and beats stretching from song to song.  It creates a very coherent piece of work, but one lacking the strong individual efforts of the band’s debut and followup. 

It still has the desired primal effect, and translates wonderfully into the live arena, but pressed to pick between their long-players this wouldn’t be my first choice.

File under: A dollop of dense blues rock

75. The Black Keys – “Rubber Factory”

A very long-running gag amongst a few mates and I is to interrupt anyone starting a story “I woke up this morning…” with a verbal approximation of a blues guitar riff.

the-black-keys-rubber-factory-album-coverOf course, this springs from the tendency of old-time bluesmen to start many a lament in such a way. 

Therefore, it always thrills me when Dan and Pat unleash just such a pairing on Grown So Ugly (and follow through with a truly brilliant tune).  It is a shame that this is track #8, not #1. Having said that, the opening couple of tracks (When the Lights Go Out and 10AM Automatic) are on par.

Indeed, this album lacks for any filler.  The great tracks just keep coming. Stack Shot Billy and Girl is On Mind showcase the Keys sound perfectly. 

This is the long player where these guys really come into their own.  The vocals are given just a little more clarity than on their previous two albums, the guitar is crisper and the drums feel alive.  I love how Patrick creates so much more than mere persussion on the kit. I swear he’s playing riffs on them cymbals.

All hail the new kings.

File under: There is power in this factory…

71. The Black Keys – “The Big Come Up”

As you may have picked up from their mention in my previous review, I am a large fan of Akron, Ohio outfit The Black Keys. I have been heard to describe them as my favourite live band.

the-big-come-up-the-black-keys-album-coverThis was their debut album, and as with Belle and Sebastian, these guys emerged from their chrysalis fully formed, with a sound which set them apart from those around them. 

It is a startlingly simple idea.  One guy playing electric guitar like he’s the reincarnation of some 1920s bluesman, singing very similarly.  The other bloke pounding out a steady beat like there’s no tomorrow, and almost playing riffs on the highhats.  The guitar sings and wails, the lyrics are not always decipherable, but the energy cannot be ignored.  It is music as medicine for the soul. 

This particular recording is perhaps the most rudimentary of the BK’s efforts.  And it is no worse for it.  Their confidence in this sound and approach means that their covers of The Stooges, Beatles and Junior Kimbrough are almost indiscernable from their own tunes. 

And it’s on white vinyl!!

File under: Bluesy bliss