The Black Keys “Brothers” album review
I don’t expect nearly as much out of music as I used to. Let’s face it; at this juncture in popular music’s history, everything is derivative. The so-called “music snobs” who scour the internet in search of something truly unique usually end up settling for tepid and mediocre bands like Animal Collective, when their time would probably be better spent listening to old Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Dylan, and The Clash records. Akron Ohio’s The Black Keys have never claimed to be musical visionaries. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have been making fuzzed-out, pummeling blues-rock since 2002’s The Big Come Up, on which they covered The Beatle’s, “She Said, She Said”, and “Do The Rump“, by Junior Kimbrough.
The duo’s latest album Brothers, is improbably their best record to date. Working with Danger Mouse on 2008’s Attack and Release, seems to have really loosened these guys up. Album opener “Everlasting Light” showcases the newest weapon in The Black Keys arsenal; the smooth falsetto of Dan Auerbach. The album’s first single, “Next Girl” is classic black keys, with a twist. Subtle flourishes like the phantom radio broadcast noises at the beginning of the song, and the faint female backing “la la la la’s” at the 50 second mark, show how far a little innovation can go in roots music. Danger Mouse returns to co-produce “Tighten Up” which features whistling, some killer Hammond B-3 fills, and a guitar line that will make you want to quit your job and join a band. The Jerry Butler cover “Never Gonna Give You U”p sounds like a lost Motown classic.
Brothers, was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, and it sure sounds like it. This album is steeped in a half-century’s worth of musical tradition, without sounding overtly derivative. These songs could have been written 50 years ago, but they wouldn’t have sounded nearly as good as they do today. By being unapologetic about and unafraid of their musical influences, The Black Keys have managed to transcend all of them; creating an album that sounds both classic and completely timeless.
-Review by Tracy Ross