The Black Keys: Brothers Review (Four Takes)

 

It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Brothers by The Black Keys

Alexei Moon Casselle, musician in Roma Di Luna and Kill the Vultures 

75/100

The Black Keys continue along their path of party-rockin’ blues with a soulful, psychedelic twist on their sixth record, Brothers. Fuzzed out guitars, organ, bombastic drums and soulful, distorted world-weary vocals awash in a funky haze make Brothers an enjoyable listen from cover to cover. While some fans shuddered at the thought of the Keys moving their recording process from the basement to the studio for 2008’s Attack & Release and collaborating with buzz-producer Danger Mouse, the band maintained their essential grit and guts while bringing their vision to life in high definition, adding a coating of clean shimmer to a base of dirty, low-fi creations. For this record, the Akron, Ohio duo took their project to the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama and the results are nothing short of pristine, funky, head nodding indie rock. The Keys show great restraint on this particular record, balancing their act between keeping tracks sonically voluptuous while allowing each component the right amount of space to shine through. I was skeptical of the Black Keys when I first heard them, in the way that I am skeptical of most revival bands, especially white singers doing historically black music. But the Keys have released enough material to prove their sincerity, carrying on tradition out of respect rather than imitating for lack of one’s own identity. Singer Dan Auerbach wears the weary, soulful voice well, keeping his delivery steady yet passionate and always with a cool swagger that few modern vocalists can pull off. Thematically, Auerbach treads well-trodden territory of forsaken love and other variations of wrong-doing and done-wronging, taking a cue from his R&B and soul forefathers. I’m not mad that Auerbach doesn’t push the boundaries lyrically, because at the end of the day, the Black Keys are setting out to make music to feel and move to versus music to sit and think about, which is also a nod to the masters of the craft that came before.

Joe Horton, musician in No Bird Sing

87/100

There’s one big reason not to like the new Black Keys record, Brothers. Fortunately for die-hards of the Akron duo, that reason is the opening track. Start on number two, press play and the next fifty plus minutes will give you more than enough for a quality record. The opening track, Everlasting Light, is at least apty named – a bit of fluff that threatens to go on forever.

Though my favorite song has to be the closing track, These Days (a special special treat), you won’t have to wait that long to be won over. The album really starts cementing its character during the instrumental, Black Mud. After that, vocalist Dan Auerbach showcases his versatility with super-smooth falsettos and crunchy, amp-driven vocal licks. The guy recalls greats like Cooke, Hendrix and Waters all on the same record. Nothing new for Auerbach or the Keys. For existing fans, Brothers will walk the line between fresh and familiar. It’s good stuff. Just watch out for that first step.

Jon Behm, Reviler

85/100

The Black Keys have always sort of reminded me of that scene from the film Ghost World, where the protagonists go see an old legendary blues musician play at a club, only to have the legend completely drowned out by a white, suburban rock/blues band called Blueshammer.   In the scene’s key moment Steve Buscemi’s date reaches across the table to him and hilariously says “If you are into the blues, you’re going to love Blueshammer.”  It isn’t that I think that the Black Keys (whom I love) are the equivalent of a crappy bar band, but I have oftentimes wondered if by listening to their rock and roll takes on the blues I am being complicit in the death of a nearly lost genre of music.  Fortunately with every Keys’ record I can worry a little less.  While the band’s new effort, Brothers, is definitely rooted in the blues/rock of their past albums, much like Attack and Release it continues to broaden their sound and make it less of a one trick pony.  For every legitimate blues song on Brothers, “Ten cent Pistol” for instance, or “I’m Not the One,” there are songs that display a much wider range of influences.   Funky blaxploitation rhythms show up in tracks like “Next Girl” and the instrumental “Black Mud,” and anthemic rocker “Howlin’” could replace “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” as the go to song for riling up crowds at sporting events.  Most notable though is the fact that singer Dan Auerbach seems to have really found his soul – the R&B influence throughout Brothers is potent and despite being a white dude from Ohio, Auerbach really pulls it off.  “Never Give You Up” is a cover of a Jerry Butler (The Impressions) track and in “These Days” Auerbach channels the ghost of Sam Cooke.  All of these influences together bring a great deal more nuance to the Black Keys’ sound, and in turn, make for more interesting listening.  While I may still pull out Rubber Factory for a good time, Brothers definitely shows that the band has come a long way since then. 

Josh Keller, Reviler

81/100

What can I say about the Black Keys that hasn’t been said already? Other than an album or two hiccup, the Akron, Ohio duo have been the gold standard for blues garage rock over the last decade.  That hasn’t changed on their latest album, the funky R & B influenced Brothers.  Their work with Danger Mouse and various hip hop heavyweights has influenced their sound to a grimier, devil may care direction.  Frontman Dan Auerbach pulls no punches on the anti-love songs like “Next Girl” and “I’m Not the One,” and even when he isn’t kissing off old flames he sounds as hardened and world weary as ever.  Auerbach’s guitar is powerful and diverse and Patrick Carney’s drumming sound as massive as ever.  The sound on the record seems conducive to the Black Keys gaining an even bigger audience and the R & B flavored material on the back half of the record is a nice twist for the band.  If you haven’t jumped on the Black Keys bandwagon yet (where ya been?), Brothers seems like a pretty logical step and is an album that should find them becoming an even bigger sensation than they currently are.

The Black Keys:          Myspace          Site

Brothers will be out on May 18th on Fat Possum

HP Releases Line of Printers and PCs Geared Towards African-American College Students.

Entertainment Close-up July 11, 2009 HP announced it has introduced a new line of printers and PCs specifically for African-American college students.

“HP wants to be a partner to parents looking for the right resources to help their children succeed in school,” said Lesley McNorton, manager, African-American Marketing, HP. “Our line of products is great for students, offering a combination of affordability, power, fashion and kindness to the environment.” The line of HP PCs include the following: site hp photosmart c4780

– The HP Pavilion dv2z is less than 1-inch thin and starting at 3.81 pounds.

– The HP Pavilion dv6t offers digital entertainment features and mobile technologies.

– The HP Pavilion dv3t includes extended battery life and a range of connectivity options for students.

The line of printing solutions include:

– The HP Photosmart Plus All-in-One wirelessly prints photos, web content and everyday documents – from class schedules to homework assignments.

– HP Photosmart C4780 All-in-One is a wireless printer that offers a color display with an HP TouchSmart frame, this printer delivers lab-quality photos, everyday prints, copies and photo reprints – all without a PC – and it uses ink cartridges made from at least 50 percent recycled plastic. hpphotosmartc4780.net hp photosmart c4780

HP said all of these printers are part of the HP Eco Solutions program and carry the HP Eco Highlights label and have Energy Star qualification.

((Comments on this story may be sent to newsdesk@closeupmedia.com))

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8 Responses

  1. solace says:

    awww man. i LOVE Everlasting Light Joe!

    first time i heard the record that song (and esp. Dan’s newfound falsetto) flipped me on my head.

    i think this is their most ambitious and best album to date personally

  2. Eric Blair says:

    maybe I’d judge Everlasting Light less harshly if it wasn’t the opening track. maybe…

  3. solace says:

    huh. well, like i said, it kinda messed with my mind first time i listened to the record. so much so that i thought maybe i was listening to a fake 😉

  4. its me says:

    the first review is fucking bogus.

  5. jonbehm says:

    Any particular reason you feel that way It’s Me?

  6. Rufus Justicio says:

    I’d have to agree I put the album on heard everlasting light, and thought I was listening to a fake cd. I began enjoying the rest of the cd. Then went back to everlasting light and now I love that song just as much as the others.

  7. Mr. Misanthrope says:

    Good job guys. I actually have to say that I thought Everlasting Light is a perfect lead in to the whole album. I knew what I was in for the second it started with the perfect mix of fuzzy guitars and that clean and clear influence of Burton in the background. I thought Broken Bells would be the best thing to come out this year….and then I heard this.

  8. Riley Carter says:

    oh yeah! black music is the best.*-`

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