The Black Keys – Brothers
Release Date: May 18, 2010
Record Label: Nonesuch
For most of their careers, The Black Keys have been a “what you see is what you get” type of band, as their dirty blues-rock mojo has seen them release spectacular records such as 2002’s The Big Come Up and 2004’s Rubber Factory. But after a while, it can get pretty repetitive, as 2006’s Magic Potion proves. Was the Akron, Ohio, duo becoming a parody of their selves? They enlisted uber-producer Danger Mouse to helm the boards for 2008’s Attack and Release, which produced some new sounds and tempos, but it still fell kind of flat. Let’s face it; The Black Keys aren't going to be retooling their sound anytime soon.
After that album, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney dabbled in some side projects, including a fusion album with Damon Dash in Blakroc, Carney’s Drummer project, and Auerbach’s solo debut. If The Black Keys’ sound was becoming stale, focusing on other projects proved beneficial, as the duo’s sixth album, Brothers, is a return to form and their best work in six years. Maybe the time off recharged Auerbach and Carney’s batteries, as Brothers displays a looser, groovier Black Keys.
It’s evident in the first two tracks of Brothers. Auerbach’s busts out a sultry falsetto in opener “Everlasting Light,” and the bombastic “Next Girl” is the dirty funk we’ve come to love from this band. First single “Tighten Up” features fantastic drum work from Carney. The only song produced by Danger Mouse, it’s a smooth toe-tapper, featuring futuristic guitar riffs from Auerbach. “Howlin’ For You” is a crowd-igniter, while “She’s Long Gone” features a slick riff that’ll worm its way into your brain.
Hazy interlude “Black Mud” is classic Keys; a bluesy jam track. The organ paces the soulful “The Only One,” as Auerbach shows off his falsetto once again. Electric keys litter the spooky “Too Afraid To Love You.” Auerbach’s vocals echo throughout, crying, “I just don’t know what to do/I’m too afraid to love you.”
The slow “Ten Cent Pistol” is full of swagger, piling on the guitar and organ. “Sinister Kid” is exactly what the title implies, and file “The Go Getter” under “Album Highlights,” as the subtle buzz and hand claps add in some flavor to this atmospheric rocker. “These Days” is woven with heartache, as the vulnerable closer presents a band that’s at the top of its game.
If there’s such a thing as having too much of a good thing, then Brothers is a prime example. The record clocks in at 15 tracks and 55 minutes, and the length bogs down the quality. Trim some of the fat, and you have a near perfect record.
Brothers is a rock and roll takeover, as The Black Keys flex their muscles and make their presence known towards all imitators. The variety between tempos, melodies, and genres will keep you coming back to this record. As plainly stated on the album cover: this is an album by The Black Keys. The name of this album is Brothers. This album is absolutely magnificent.