CLUAS Album Reviews

The Black Keys 'Attack & Release'

May 6

Written by:
Tuesday, May 06, 2008  RssIcon

A review of the album 'Attack & Release' by The Black Keys

Black Keys Attach ReleaseReview Snapshot: 
The latest blues-rock offering from the Ohio delta duo benefits from Dangermouse's knob-twiddling.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
I'd consider the Black Keys to be part of the great spawning of second-tier garage bands after the success of the White Stripes. Maybe unfairly, they're nothing if not prolific (four albums and as many EP's since 2002), but to be honest I haven't heard the majority of their work. Seeing them live in Temple Bar Music Centre in 2006, I found them to be a strong duo, Dan Auerbach is more than capable of doing a "Jack" and moving seamlessly from rhythm guitar to lead, relying on sheer volume and distortion to bridge the gap. Drummer Patrick Carney providing a solid, unfussy rhythm section. But still, after about five or six songs it all just started to congeal into one big Zeppelin riff. He's lacking White's pop chops when it comes to songwriting and relies too heavily on riffage to lead the song. The odd middle-8 never killed anyone Dan! (Having said that, most of the crowd loved it).

I got their new album Attack & Release based on hearing 'So He Won't Break' on the radio. One of the highlights of the album and a song that seems untypical of the band's sound, a definitive step up in their songwriting. That, and the association with producer Danger Mouse was enough to convince me to give it a go. I don't really know Danger Mouse other than him being part of the Gnarls Barkley duo, and producing a few familiar albums. It seemed an odd combination but an interesting one, especially for a group with a fairly limited musical landscape.

What he seems to have added to the Black Keys for this album is a heavy dose of atmosphere. Some of the songs lie on a bed of ethereal backing vocals and each song tries to eek out an identity of its own - banjos, female vocalists, piano, hammond, delicate 'plinky' noises, even flutes are added to the mix. For the most part it works, such as opening track 'All You Ever Wanted', a fantastic album intro in the form of a sombre sermon announcing the arrival of the band with a characteristically huge guitar riff about halfway through. Definitely a song to draw in the listener. The track which follows, 'I Got Mine' plants us in familiar blues-rock territory again.

At eleven relatively short songs, it doesn't outstay its welcome. Final track 'Things Ain't Like They Used To Be' sounding a little like Neil Young's 'Albuquerque' with added polish. At its worst it gets a little repetitive, due more to mid-tempo songs but at its best it's a fine rock album. I found it in the second hand rack about two weeks after it was released, so I'm probably not the only one who thinks the gushing five star reviews seem slightly exaggerated, but it's a good effort from the duo, with credit where it's due to Danger Mouse.

If you're a fan of their previous work I don't think you'll be disappointed, but if you're after a great rock album to kick off the summer, I'd recommend Stephen Malkmus' latest 'Real Emotional Trash' before this.

Peejay

  • To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.
  • Check out the CLUAS review of Black Keys' 2006 album 'Rubber Factory'.

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