The Black Keys
Right down to the cover art that winks in Howlin’ Wolf’s direction, Brothers is downright dripping with respectful nods to blues and soul past. Yet this is clearly no nostalgia trip. The lithe sounds of The Black Keys’ latest album come hungry and ready to stamp out their place at this very moment. The coarse blues rockers and raw soul grooves are presented in skeletal mixes where the instruments and vocals can spread out as they will and every other crumb of noise settles into its good place.
The bare production style definitely takes influence from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s work with hip hop royalty like Mos Def and RZA, and they seem to have learned much from time spent with Midas touch collaborator Danger Mouse who helmed the recording of Brothers’ predecessor, the excellent Attack & Release.
But despite one last collaboration with Danger Mouse on the excitable and surprising “Tighten Up” this time out Auerbach and Carney handle the production details personally, and their fare is straightforwardly unsimple and deeply emotionally present. Matching the immediate musical intensity of opener “Everlasting Light” in a surprising way, Auerbach digs up an enticing falsetto that reappears on “The Only One” to glide along nicely with interplay between organ, bass and snippets of guitar. Lyrically hopeful moments like those (and the well crafted Jerry Butler cover “Never Gonna Give You Up”) may show off a positive take on love, but the more contemptuous thoughts on the subject are certainly not shortchanged here. “Next Girl” is a hearty slice of getting past love gone bad, “Ten Cent Pistol” is a classic tale of the scorned seeking revenge and “She’s Long Gone” and “I’m Not the One” certainly make the points implied by their titles. In every case the mood and intensity of the lyrics gets accented and augmented by the dynamic musical lead with which it’s paired. Everything fits in place to up the game of something else, and no part of these finely made blues and soul creations gets a pass on pulling its weight. That’s just how it works for Brothers.