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Brotherly love from
The Black Keys

The Black Keys - Brothers
(Nonesuch Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 31, 2010
The Black Keys

Review by Tony Bonyata

The Black Keys released their sixth full-length album, Brothers, earlier this year, and it turns out to be not only their broadest, most creative work to date, but also, quite possibly, their best record yet.

Except for the album's first single "Tighten Up," The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have eschewed the production from Danger Mouse (who produced their 2008 album Attack & Release) in favor of helming the boards themselves along with the help of Mark Neill. And by doing so they've created a true work of pop art that, thankfully, still retains much of the caked-in dirt from under the twosomes' fingernails. While the duo have stretched beyond their original gritty, go-for-the-throat, blues-rock attack over the years - adding elements of psychedelia, soul, R&B and '70s stoner rock to their simple yet effective template, on Brothers Auerbach and Carney have made a return to their roots while also incorporating some of the lessons learned along the way. It sounds as if they purposely left snatches of flannel and denim from their backs at various locations throughout their career, so, if ever needed, they could find their way back to these various places and sounds. And while they do manage to trace their way back, we also find that these are not entirely the same places as they were originally left.... and it turns out to be all the better for it.

The album kicks off with a dirty stomp and Auerbach offering up a deliciously decadent falsetto vocal on "Everlasting Light," before the primordial blues-rock howlers "Next Girl" and "She's Long Gone" give longtime fans something to hang their hats on. The first single "Tighten Up" is a wonderful amalgamation of heartfelt Southern soul and blues siphoned through some unique and great rock time-signatures. The pounding track "Howlin' For You" showcases some of their penchant for scuzzed-out psychedelia, as Auerbach delivers a dirty, fuzzed-out guitar tone, while Carney hammers out a thundering, tribal glam-rock beat that would make Gary Glitter shake in his knee-high boots.

What makes this album so appealing from start to end are some the side trips the duo also take, such as the more reserved, yet lovely soul numbers "The Only One," "These Days," "I'm Not The One" and their sumptuous take on Jerry Butler's 1968 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up."

It's great to see a band like The Black Keys just hitting their creative stride and, at the same time, making such a huge impact within the music industry (Brothers not only debuted at the #3 spot on Billboard's 200 chart, but many of the songs have been licensed in commercials, not to mention being nominated for six Grammy Awards this year). But the best part... they've achieved all of this success without compromise. Brothers is truly one of this year's best records - if not the best.

The Black Keys are performing at the Aragon Ballroom (1106 W. Lawrence, Chicago, IL) on December 30th, 31st and January 1st.

Related articles:

The Black Keys (Lollapalooza 2010) - Festival review - Chicago, IL - Aug. 2010
The Black Keys - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Sept. 2008
The Black Keys (Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival) - Festival review - Manchester, TN - June 2007
The Black Keys - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Nov. 2006
The Black Keys - Rubber Factory - Album review Jan. 2005
Dan Auerbach (Lollapalooza 2009) - Festival review - Chicago, IL - Aug. 2009
Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid - Album review Feb. 2009

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