Let's Rock

The Black Keys

Easy Eye Sound, 2019

http://www.theblackkeys.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/03/2019

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney – where have you been all my life??? Sure, 94% of that statement is in jest...but there is still 6% that can’t help but ask the question.

It would be hard to have listened to popular music in whatever name this decade has been labeled without being aware of The Black Keys in some form. They may have had humble beginnings and worked their way up the musical landscape ladder through time, sweat and tears, but there is no question that they have reached the point where they are in the ether of “what is the world listening to.”

With all that being said, your humble reviewer had interacted with exactly ZERO of their albums. Don’t ask me why, as William Joel once said. I had a cursory knowledge of some of the big singles that were present on television and in commercials, but in the Olympic sized swimming pool that is the Black Keys, I was sitting in the shallow end reading the paper and yelling at kids to stop splashing me.

But there was something that grabbed my attention as I perused the “Coming Soon” portion of Apple Music a few months ago....a title of Let’s Rock and an electric chair outlined in pink (I’m not a complicated guy, as it turns out). And following through the portal, there was “Eagle Birds” the second track on the record. Immediately, the muscular guitar riff and pulsating drum beat demanded I keep listening.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There is such an incredibly appealing, retro-sound to the entirety of Let’s Rock, which I have little doubt has been labeled as derivative and uninspired in corners of the critic-industrial complex (It’s called Greta Van Fleetitis). There’s a beautiful, restrained approach to the production that easily harkens back to the early ‘70s when rock music actually sounded like rock music! A novel concept, right? A quick glance at the personnel for the record reveals Auerbach and Carney the titular Black Keys, and two backing vocalists. That’s it; four people! All songs written and produced by Auerbach and Carney, with nary a song with a team of 16 credits to be found. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to be a condemnation of the current pop music scene....but I’m not mad about it either.

One of my personal theories about a great rock song is that, either consciously or subconsciously, the listener wants to move to it. This is not a rule without exceptions, but I generally find it to be the case. So one of the aspects I truly enjoy with regards to Let’s Rock is the groove that settles in.  A song like “Lo/Hi” takes the inherent danceability of Marc Bolan era T. Rex and just runs with it. “Sit Around And Miss You” completely captures the vibe of Stealers Wheel, down to the point where I wanted to tie somebody in a chair and shimmy and shuffle while holding a razor....but those are my issues.

But just because The Black Keys are referential doesn’t mean they still don’t have their identity intact on Let’s Rock. “Get Yourself Together” and “Go” aren’t necessarily the best versions of a stereotypical Keys song, but they push the right buttons. There’s a craftsmanship present that I give Auerbach and Carney a great deal of credit for: they aren’t messing around with what works. (It should be noted that with this being my first exposure to the catalogue, my curiosity has been piqued as to what they would sound like IF they tried a vastly different production style).

One of the cardinal sins a rock band can make is too much of a good thing; if I can trim an album down by a few songs, then should they have been included? The Black Keys seems to understand this philosophy quite well, as Let’s Rock clocks in at just under 40 minutes. It’s a breezy listen that you wouldn’t even guess runs as “long” as it does; truly a fun, pleasurable record. I think these guys might just have a shot at making it!

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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