Yoni gives an early listen to the new Black Keys album and doesn't hate it.
In fact quite the opposite. How do you follow up one of the best albums of 2010? You put out one of the best albums of 2011. El Camino teams The Black Keys with Danger Mouse for the third time and the partnership isn't showing any signs of going stale. There isn't too much difference between Brothers and El Camino as far as make up goes. The band is still filled out with bass and keyboards, but this time the other musicians are playing more than bit roles. Instead, they are flavoring it and making it something totally different.
The album starts out with the single Lonely Boy. This is a song we've heard or come to expect from The Black Keys: a rocking 60's garage rock swinger. But after that the album suddenly changes, you can hear it almost immediately. The first stabs from the guitar on "Dead and Gone" sound like it could come right off of "London Calling". That riff and tone continues throughout the album. I don't like to use mash up comparisons but the rest of the album has shades of not just The Clash, but Arcade Fire as well. The keyboards aren't just background, songs like "Hell of a Season" rely heavily on a hook from the keyboard.
The middle of the album takes another shift with my favorite song on the disc: "Black Submarines". This is the first time I can remember hearing an acoustic guitar on a Black Keys album. The song took me off guard. It slowly adds tamborine to the layer of acoustic guitar. The strange instrumentation is balanced out by strange and warping lyrics, and then suddenly you're hit with electric guitars jutting in. The song is another reminder that the Black Keys have just been on a world tour playing songs in bigger rooms than they have ever played before, and that they are flexing their big theater and festival headliner muscles. Having seen their recent tour schedule The Black Keys are taking this sound to arena's like Madison Square Garden and the Air Canada Center in Toronto. I'm not sure how their sound will fill a big room or if they have the stage presence to perform as a two piece but I hope they don't get discouraged and keep turning out songs like this.
The Black Keys aren't trying to make a statement with this record but they certainly are making their most accessible album to date. There are many times I hear these songs and think: "Yeah these are going to be modern rock radio hits." No, I can definitely hear some of these songs being played on top 40 stations next to whatever the popular kids are listening to. Danger Mouse's influence is pretty strong when it comes to this sound. On "Stop Stop" if you close your eyes you can almost hear Cee Lo signing. Actually if you didn't know any better, the mistake could be made pretty easily.
Overall, the album is strong. If you're expecting the Black Keys to be the band they were 10 years ago then you will be disappointed. That probably won't happen for another 5 years, when Rick Rubin comes in to produce and god knows I hope that doesn't happen. The Black Keys are growing their sound and fan base with each new album. There aren't too many bands out there that have put out consistently good albums and can keep developing their sound at the same time. I hope The Black Keys continue to make quality music.
Written or Contributed by: Guitaryoni