The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
Guest Review by Corby Kissler
It was a welcome day when the The Black Keys announced a new album packaged up with a tour to support then new music. It had been awhile since their last album (nearly 5 years to be exact) dropped with the interim time period filled in by Dan Auerbach’s many side projects.
When the teaser videos came out, this anticipation was raised another notch as we saw the duo from Akron, Ohio making light of their supposed “falling out” with each other, even going so far as to see the pair in a counseling session “working out their problems.” It turns out that the tongue in cheek material for the video was a harbinger of what can be found on the album and what we can expect from The Black Keys—an honest look at themselves and straightforward rock songs. On to the music!
Overall, the album revisits many of the same type of production qualities that could be found on the previous album, Turn Blue, for which Auerbach and Danger Mouse were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Time will tell with Let’s Rock, but many production similarities exist.
We have Auerbach’s gentle voice over the pulsing rhythm section accentuated by Patrick Carney’s solid rhythm. There are the customary hooks provided by the lead guitar, spitting and snarling at times as can be found in “Lo/Hi.” Signature ‘Keys staples such as lovely stereo guitar in “Under The Gun’s” pre-bridge section make for a huge sound. Background singers, a bass guitar, and an added rhythm guitar section are all found throughout the album, complementing and filling out the sound provided by a guitar and drums.
At times, some of the songs harken back to an earlier history of rock. “Sit Around and Miss You” reminds a bit of Steeler Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” and “Fire Walk With Me” with it’s shuffle bit couldn’t help but take me back to a Johnny Cash-esque memory of “Burning Ring of Fire.” “Lo/Hi” has its pre-verse it has its “Spirit in the Sky” fuzz guitar riff and one can imagine a huge Saturn V rocket blasting to the moon on the wings of the song notes.
This isn’t to say that the songs on the album are too direct of an homage. Each song stands on its own and completes the latest version of The Black Keys catalog. The album’s second track, “Eagle Birds,” has some great dirt guitar accentuated by an “oh-so on the edge of breakup” lead break. Throw in some slide and you’ve got a nice toe tapping song, more of what we’ve come to expect from The Black Keys.
The listener is also treated to the customary dirty blues fuzz sound that Auerback has been honing for many years into a familiar, yet signature sound. “Lo/Hi” is a great example as the lead single. Simple, yet catchy song that prove The Black Keys have the chops and a whole lot more to say. “Get Yourself Together” has this great shuffle beat provided by Auerbach’s steady hand and it may have been the circumstances, but this tune makes a great road trip song.
“Under the Gun” has a really cool breakdown moment in the middle of that presages a section of the live show, where one can imagine some really cool crowd interaction is going to happen. Just in case you need a nice moment to catch your breath, “Walk Across The Water” gives us a nice, interesting lower temper song with that wet, dripping reverb sound so prevalent on The Black Keys catalog.
Listening to this album took me to a few different places, and in the end that is one of the chief reasons that people listen to music, or at least I do. I’m a fan of The Black Keys and will happily add these songs to the list of new music in rotation when I need to get somewhere else with a smile on my face and nodding my head to the beat.