Full disclosure. I love the Black Keys. With their first seven albums they cemented their, "can do nothing wrong" (except when collaborating with rap and hip hop artists - Blackroc never happened) cachet with me. There are very few bands that make it to that level with me: Velvet Underground, Nirvana, The Pixies, Heartless Bastards, Beastie Boys, so coming in to this review of their latest album, Brothers, please understand I have a baked in bias. I expect it to be sweet.
Upon a first listen it looks like the boys learned some things from their collaboration with Danger Mouse on the last effort, Attack & Release, and perhaps even from rubbing elbows with geniuses like Raekwon, RZA and Q-Tip on the terrible Blackroc album. The sound is rich. Astley and Tyldesley ShedsIt's full. And completely saturated in soul. It's not the stripped won duo raw rock of the Fat Possum gems, and I'm cool with it.
Brothers opens with Everlasting Light, and I have to tell you something right here. I love Marc Bolan. Dude did it right. I hold a great deal of reverence for Electric Warrior by T Rex, so when Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney step right in with the Mambo Sun homage, I'm sold again. I'm paying the sticker price twice because that's how much it's hittin' home. Mr. Auerbach's pipes are in fine form, the guitar and drums perfect and now backing vocals slide in.
The table is set for the show piece, the one cut, the "single" of the album: Next Girl. "Oh my next girl will be nothing like my ex girl...I made mistakes back then, I'll never do it again. Oh my next girl will be nothing like my ex girl...it was a painful dance but I got a second chance."
I'm not one to analyze lyrics, but that is wicked writing there, piercing right to the core of break up, tenuous relationship, and hurtful love. God this is a good song.
The album is starting to really wash over me. Tighten Up is whistling by. Patrick is pummeling me in Howlin' For You.
The Only One washes me away into cool still waters...it's beautiful. Ten Cent Pistol comes in like Primal Scream, then simply kills it with this intriguing murder story told on top of a highly produced lush sound. This might be the best song on a loaded album.
Gotta love the line in The Go Getter, "Hold on and don't let go, pretty girls help soften the blow." Unknown Brother is like a Hasil Adkins and Bill Withers collaboration: dirty guitar on a soulful feather bed. Never Gonna Give You Up is a Jerry Butler cover, and The Keys do it nicely. Don't confuse this R&B gem to Rick Astley's rick rolled meme. This is why I love The Black Keys. They can cover of an old school song and do it right, keeping the original soul and charm, but adding a twist that tells me the future might just be okay.