The Black Keys – Brothers
Nonesuch Records: 2010
Purchase on Amazon
One must wonder how far Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney can take this two-piece act. The Black Keys, teetering on triteness, have tenaciously triumphed time after time. The duo from Akron always finds a way to stay fresh with their signature blues-rock sound. Stylistic separation was not so hard to achieve a couple of years ago, as the Danger Mouse’d Attack & Release added a refreshing dimension to the Keys’ vintage manner. Back at the helm of production with Brothers, The Black Keys have returned to familiar north-south rock’n’roll territory, putting together a lengthy record that’s undoubtedly up to standard, yet too keen on showcasing its cohesion with earlier work.
It is hard not to admire the no-nonsense relentlessness that The Black Keys have possessed since debut album The Big Come Up. You’ll never see this band musically bottle up on Brothers, evident from opener “Everlasting Light” which freewheels off of Auerbach’s falsetto and Carney’s thumping beat. The message on “Next Girl” is as upfront as its sound, dauntlessly acknowledging mistakes while honoring to limit them. Danger Mouse pays a visit in single “Tighten Up”, providing a new flavor on Brothers while keeping fluidity with the rest of the album. Shying away from the title, Dan’s strumming and Pat’s percussion let loose in the last minute, boiling things down and providing one of the most enjoyable moments on the album. “Howlin’ For You” is followed by “She’s Long Gone”, a day and night one-two punch that continue to showcase the strength of Brothers’ first half.
It is not a stretch to contend that Brothers is without a porous track. Beginning to end, the Keys continue to deliver the goods. My main beef with the album is in the arrangement. Juxtaposed to an energetic front end, it renders the back slightly uneventful. Brothers feels complete around the half-hour mark as a melancholy Auerbach puts his last breath on the defeatist “Too Afraid To Love You”. Interestingly enough, the tune strikes similarity with how Attack & Release ended, with “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be”. It would be an incredible challenge to leave Brothers with an animated reaction. Like a sexual frustration, it climaxes too quickly. Shame, as “Sinister Kid” and “Unknown Brother”, are victims in this unfortunate album imbalance.
The Black Keys are back with their old antics on Brothers. If you don’t know soon enough, you’ll know by the time the album closes the curtains. This record is proof positive that the Keys are one of the better rock groups of our time. Packed with gems, this just does not feel like one of their better records. Lopsidedness leaves Brothers lukewarm.