The Black Keys are a band that have eluded my musical grasp for a while. Not by any conscious choice, but just by random chance. Up until a few weeks ago, I was only privy to enjoying the track "Thickfreakness" as it was a selection in a group of friend's online music community known as Nighthawks. It was a rocking good track, but it never sparked the kind of "I NEED BUTTER ON EVERYTHING" approach to music that some bands are able to captivate me. What that last comment means is that I have become a rock completest (sp?) when it comes to the music I love. I want all of it. Every album possible, b-sides or covers. I want them. Some bands can do that to me instantaneously (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, John Cale, Neil Young to name a few) but the Black Keys haven't grabbed me yet. Until now.
A friend of mine recommended Brothers to me and as I am in the mood for more new music lately, I picked up a copy. Upon first listen, the blues rock combo of Dan Aeurbach's gritty guitar and Patrick Carney's intense drumming backbone was all there. After a few more spins, the productions really popped and came together solidifying these songs, while classic in their blues format, had an extra lining of insane guitar tones, usage of various synthesizers and effects as well as a soulful approach to the Black Keys classic grittier sound. This may come to many fans as a turn off, but to me it's a triumph.
The album, which is more or less a break-up record, is chock full of songs about heartache and love. The songs never stray into the realm of melancholy and the album benefits from that. Rather than wallowing in it, The Black Keys create an album of beautiful R&B tracks infused with their own garage rock sensibilites. The first single, "Tighten Up" is chock full of guitar tones from another world but at it's core, it's a truly wonderful blues song. The bside, "Howlin' For You" is half Gary Glitter half Yardbirds. With a familiar drum beat and loads of overlapping guitars with all kinds of tones, it's one of the best tracks on the record. A fun romp of a blues song. "Too Afraid to Love You" is ripe for Amy Winehouse to cover. It's harpsichord laden melody and swooning good vocals make it a stand-out track not only for the album, but for the year. What makes this record great is that although at first it sounds like a standard blues album, the added flair of production that usually kills a band if its too much makes The Black Keys soar. It has many overdubs that add more bass, more ethereal reverb and with loads of organs and other instruments gives a great help to the otherwise straight forward blues rock of their other albums. Working with Danger Mouse on their previous record and their stint in Blakroc has definitely paid of and Brothers is the result.