The Black Keys bring it all together with 'Brothers'
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
This is a review of an album by the Black Keys. The album is called Brothers. You wouldn't recognize it from The Big Come Up. This album is a great thing.
Over the last decade, the Black Keys have turned from garage blues stomp — really, an unrelenting barrage of 2-piece magic — to something much more. Starting with Rubber Factory in 2004, the Black Keys refined and reworked their sound while maintaining blues traditions. As a result, they've slowly but surely cultivated a strong audience.
Then, they opened themselves up to twists, turns, and collaboration, and became something more. 2008's Attack and Release introduced Danger Mouse as a new weapon in their arsenal, and brief excursions into side projects, solo albums, and a hip-hop album in the form of Blakroc greatly expanded their own definition.
Brothers is the next step. The Black Keys bust at the seams from the get go, starting off with "Everlasting Light,” a slow burning track that features Auerbach coming in at new vocal registers. The next four songs, "Next Girl,” "Tighten Up,” Howlin' For You" and "She's Long Gone" burst out of the speakers with the sonic power we've come to expect from them, but in new and interesting ways. After an excellent instrumental, which sounds like they loved it so much that they put it here even without waiting to come up with lyrics, "The Only One" slows things down a bit in what would fit beautifully on singer Dan Auerbach’s solo Keep It Hid. "Too Afraid to Love You" features a signature vocal performance on top of all kinds of experimental noodling, but hangs together perfectly.
Yet for all the great sounds on the first record, it's the second which quickly becomes the real highlight. "Ten Cent Pistol" swings and sways, and is perhaps the greatest among many peaks, while "Sinister Kid" stomps and struts with Nicole Wray bringing the backup vocals. I've heard the latter song only a handful of times and yet I feel compelled to sing along. "I'm Not the One" brings Black Keys balladry without the sap, while "Never Gonna Give You Up" brings back the Keys' tradition of including completely remade covers on their albums. The album closes with "These Days,” a weathered ballad stressing Auerbach's soulful vocals, almost telling the listener that time and creativity has taken its toll. The man sounds tired, but never beaten.
At the end of the album, I sit back, look at my ceiling, and wonder to myself just how much I connect with this album from the first listen, and just how much I know it will grow on me. I've drawn qualitative comparisons already to my favorite album of all time, Pearl Jam's No Code, yet I've owned the album for a grand total of six hours. More is to come from this recording, and it's not a matter of if, but when, this musical document becomes my favorite by the Black Keys, and perhaps my favorite of all time.
Yes. This is an album by the Black Keys. The name of the album is Brothers. Brothers is already a classic. I love this album. You will love it too.