Words by Eric Gasa
Like a marriage that just doesn’t know when to quit, The Black Keys and I have had a love-hate relationship for the past nine or so years. Like the nameless muses and devil women in many of their songs, there is sweet release (Rubber Factory, Brothers), sometimes she throws me a cheap trick (El Camino), but lately its been fake love (Turn Blue). Sometimes collaborating with Danger Mouse will do that to you; play it safe and you get safer expectations.
Back in 2014, on a previous review I called the Keys the “longest running, most dependable band of two white guys in America.” Five years later and the mantra hasn’t changed, these guys still work themselves to the bone, but the sound has certainly returned to form. The band of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney may have traded the scuzz and fuzz for spots on Dominoes adverts and Ford truck commercials, but in 2019 they’re trying hard to find their way back home and maybe win their souls back in the process. It’s about time that The Black Keys sounded like The Black Keys again.
This new album is titled Let’s Rock, and does exactly that; no frills, no ribbons, no wonder collaborations, just two guys cranking out proven riffs with the intention of filling out stadiums. On Let’s Rock, the Keys have resumed their throne as Top 40 Rock chart kings.
First salvo, “Shine A Little Light” cranks up the volume like 2014 never happened and reminisces like an outtake from El Camino. The Keys’ formula is intact on this one; Auerbach’s vocal quiver, the muscular flex of his Fender, female backup vocals, Carney’s persistent drum lines, but at least the two sound like they’re having fun again.
“Go” tethers the other side of the record with a hot, bouncing, summer rock anthem. Auerbach goes for the sucker punch with the easy, singalong chorus and fat T-Rex grooves. The solo that tears down the middle doesn’t disappoint and urges heads to nod.
It’s something a bit like the fulfillment of an indie rock prophecy, but with the Black Keys rocking again like their past selves, it feels like something has finally gone right in the world again.
When we’re all old and nostalgic for what rock & roll sounded like in the 21st century we will still point back to the band that harnessed that golden sound from the 20th; it will be Auerbach and Carney still at the helm, churning out riffs and singing the blues.
© June 28, 2019
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