Friday, May 21, 2010

CD Review: The Black Keys - Brothers

I think every essay written about Akron, Ohio's The Black Keys includes a mention to The White Stripes. Sure, there are several similarities. Both are two piece, blues-rooted bands from the Midwest and the names sure do sound like they came from the same random band name generator.

When you really listen to the bands, they aren't very similar at all. I love The White Stripes. Jack White finished 6th on my top 5 entertainers of the '00s list. The White Stripes are a rock band with blues influences. The Black Keys are a blues band with rock leanings. The Black Keys appear to be getting a little more commercial and polished with each record. Fans of bands that grow over time often resent this growth as a sell-out. Brothers is proof that the change is all good for these bluesmen.

Brothers starts off with 5 excellent bluesy rock cuts that make me bob my head and reach for my shades. Then the album goes a little hit and miss with me. One of the members of the Keys recently went through a bitter divorce and nothing can fuel a blues record as a brutal heartbreak. However, it seems that in most of the songs, Dan Auerbach talks about his burning love while only a few talk about how an evil woman has done him wrong. Clearly, Dan was not the one with the broken heart. One that fits into the "done wrong" vein is found here in this funny video featuring a lead-singing dinosaur puppet. Make sure to read the scrolling message. I know some of you will not see the dinosaur or the words. Watch it again less closely.

My only criticism of the album is the length. I think they could have cut out several of the 15 songs, and made a tighter set. Past the halfway point, my neck gets a little tired from bobbing and I want to come out of the smokey bar of my mind and get back to sunshine, rainbows and unicorns that typically occupy it. There is a section right around the middle, that I'm not digging. However, The Keys end up strong with several good songs, including an unrecognizable Rick Astley cover. If people got Rick Rolled with this version, they would love it. An amazing re-imaging of Never Gonna Give You Up.
Brothers is easily one of the top albums of 2010 thus far and my favorite complete The Black Keys albums. 4 1/2 crumpled letters thrown to the floor out of 5!

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