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Music Review: The Black Keys – Brothers

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I will probably lose a few "reviewer cred" points when I admit that I don't own any Black Keys records. I'm not really sure why this is, since the whole filthy & rootsy garage blues thing is right up my alley.

In my defense, a step was taken to remedy the situation when I purchased Dan Auerbach's solo album Keep It Hid. The funny thing is that I bought it because I became totally enamored of the song "When The Night Comes" after listening to an interview with Auerbach. It was probably the least Black Keys-like tune out there, but it was my point of entry.

And now? Now I'm totally enamored of The Black Keys. This is how it works with the ears. They're fickle. You listen to something on a Friday and get nothing. Two months later, a snippet of a song hits you upside the head and you're willing to bust the budget on everything the band has put out. I'm there.

OK, so I've been reading that Brothers is somehow "slicker" than previous releases. It's might be, just a little, but it's not like these guys have gone all Steely Dan on us (and I love Steely Dan so fans, just chill, will ya?!). Yeah, Danger Mouse produced "Tighten Up" but the song still has that deep vibe you've come to expect. I suspect that much of that juice comes from Mark Neill, who had his fingers in the Auerbach record, and who has a thing for analog recording techniques.

The highlights are many, all of 'em dripping with-in-your- face sonics that manage to completely sidestep that modern dead-from-compression thing. "Howlin' For You" is a stomper that rises above its Gary Glitter (I'm not kidding) opening. "Sinister Kid," with its shout-along chorus, is a kind of Black Keys gospel. Slick? Right. So slick you can hear the buzz of Auerbach's amplifier.

I suppose you could say that some of the tunes have shaded just a smidge over to the soul side, but is that a bad thing? Give the closing track "These Days" a listen. It's a kindred spirit to Auerbach's "When The Night Comes," and it's a powerful statement.

All of which brings me to the silly notion that The Black Keys have "sold out." This was the recent fan reaction to the news that the band was providing a song to the upcoming Twilight film. Look kids, I think the vampire movie thing is useless too. But let's avoid these tired old indie reactions to fame. Give this new record several listens. There is no selling out going on. What you hear is the sound of maturation. It happens to everybody. Deal with it.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Rubber Factory was The Black Keys finest hour but they’ve never all-out disappointed. I like Auerbach’s solo record quite a lot but I wouldn’t go quite that far, Tom. The new album is good. You’ll enjoy it even if you don’t consider it their magnum opus.

  • Tom Johnson

    I haven’t heard the new one yet, but (shhh) I think Auerback’s album is the best project overall. As for Keys albums, I still can’t get past feeling they got it just right on the first one, The Big Come Up. That is some greasy, grimy, groovy shit right there.

  • You’ve got an interesting entry point for sure, Saleski, and “When The Night Comes” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in years. Stunning. Never heard Auerbach talk about it but it’s a gorgeous record.

    I miss the rawness of their early records and by comparison Brothers is slick. It’s also a fantastic record in its own right, much of it recorded in nearby Muscle Shoals! It’s a really good record and I like their evolution even if I miss the work they were doing earlier.

  • This album is good overall and very well produced, but it’s nowhere near as good as Rubber Factory. Check out the back catalog and see how this one compares. Additionally, I think more than half of the songs on Brothers won’t do well in their live set.

    Glad to see you’re on the wagon though.