Album Review

Chad W. Lutz
You can practically smell the rubber burning. And you don’t have to be anywhere near Akron to smell it. From their Rubber City birth in 2001, to the present hot and humid moment, there are few bands that have caught fire as much as the Black Keys find themselves kindling in. And for their eighth studio release they didn’t let up off the throttle.

As if from out of nowhere, the blues band duo from Akron, Ohio eked their way into mainstream music and so far, they’ve had staying power. Their first release, The Big Come Up (2002) made waves on the local circuit, and by the time of their fourth release, Rubber Factory (2004), the Black Keys had already made a name for themselves.

On Tuesday, May 18th, they try to top the success of their previous album, Attack & Release (2008), with the Black Keys 2010 installment Brothers, which marks their second collaboration with Danger Mouse, who’s responsible for helping bring to life the Jay-Z/Beatles Mersey Beat mash-up collaboration The Grey Album (2004).

The Black Keys are known for their power house blues chords, thunderous drumming and guitarist Dan Auerbach’s entrancing, if not, at times, haunting blues croon. And they didn’t stray far from their rubbery roots with this album.

Building off the success of Blakroc (2009), the Black Keys find themselves combining elements of hip hop and R&B beats with their unique style of blues to create something laid back, but with an edge.

The album features fifteen tracks and stands at fifty-five and a half minutes long. Songs like “Tighten Up” (3:31), “She’s Long Gone” (4:29), and “I’m Not The One” (3:49) showcase the Black Keys signature blues style. Others like “The Next Girl” (3:18) and the hip hop surf sound of “Howlin’ For You” (3:12) show off what the boys from Cleveland’s back yard have picked up along the way.

At times the album is rocking; with everything the Black Keys are now notorious for. But in addition, this album adds some slower, more soulful songs that serve to only broaden the spectrum. Debuting at number 3 on the Billboard Top 200, the band has already seen some fruits from their musical labors, with the release standing as their highest debut and commercial success to date.

The tracks vary in length but stick to the short-songed approach the Black Keys usually take to their albums, with no track coming in over the five-minute marker. While writing this wonderfully and artfully written review, I’d look up and find the iTunes machine showing me I was already halfway through the album. But I never felt as though it was because it drowned itself into the background and into white noise obscurity. The tracks are solid, sharp, and gritty; a mesh and mold of hard blues and soul that stirs just that. Easy on the ears, a “magic potion” for the mind.

Though they haven’t grabbed the full attention of America on a national stage (due partly because people that we can’t tell whether or not they are a man or a woman now hold that high honor) the Black Keys are still cranking out hits and making damn good music. Without the use of over-the-top costumes. Lumberjacks everywhere should be proud of this one.