By Jon Stone | @jwstone - June 3, 2010
I read something recently that called the new Black Keys record blues for the 21st century. I'd agree. Blues, to be good, has to be almost bridal: it has to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and, well, something blue. Think of your favorite blues records and I bet you'll be able to hear those elements. For me, it doesn't get better than B.B. King's Live at the Regal and Exile on Main Street's recent rerelease reminds us that the Stones were best (like Zepplin) as a dirty blues band -- and that they were supurb borrowers. Since seeing The Black Keys play a few songs from the back of the huge crowd at Lolla in 2008, I've moved from a passive admirer of the band to a full fledged fan. I think, more and more, that they get that formula right.
Like those old greats, the Black Keys' Brothers is also dirty. And like all classic blues, it's riff heavy with stark and evocative lyric cycles. But this one's gots Danger Mouse production* and with that production comes the eclecti-pop sensibility of a Danger Mouse joint. The man is a force. It's almost like he can take that dirty (which is good, as mentioned, but less widely accessible) and sell it to the masses. He dials Brothers into a place where it can sell 73,000 units in its first week. Which it did.
Despite Mouse's magic, I think what makes Brothers a great record is the same thing that makes The Black Keys a great band: the dialectic of Patrick Carney's sexy, restrained drumming and Dan Auerbach's disarming, soulful voice. Throw in consistently interesting and rock/bluesy guitar melodies (See "Ten Cent Pistol" or "Next Girl"), and I'm not so sure we need to overemphasize the Danger (I'm thinking of you whistle intro on "Tighten Up").
The Black Keys are on my top five list of bands not to miss at Bonnaroo next week. Like many, I'm hoping that we get some a bit of collaboration from some of the fest's great hip hop acts during their midnight set on Friday night. See you at That Tent.
*As our astute commenter points out, DM only produces the one track ("Tighten Up") and a little bit more homework reveals my second paragraph up there fits better in a description of Attack and Release where Danger Mouse deserves full album production credit. Yes folks, those first week numbers can really only be credited to the band themselves. They deserve it.