The Black KeysAttack and Release
  • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 02, 2008

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Akron OH’s shaggy, retro blues duo The Black Keys never knew they were prepping their next album when they first set out to record it. All guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney assumed was that they had been tapped by producer Danger Mouse to participate in a quick collaboration with Ike Turner. But Turner’s passing last December obviously derailed the project, leaving band and producer alike a bevy of unused material to work with. Thus the foundations for the Keys’ fifth and most dare deviling album to date were laid.

With Danger Mouse behind the boards, Attack and Release (Nonesuch) marks a defiant evolution in the band’s storied sound. Pumping plenty of studio power into the band’s riff rocking M.O, Dangermouse takes classic, backwoods barn burners like “I Got Mine”, “Strange Times”, and “Remember When (Side B)” to rocketeering new levels of output. Never have you ever heard The Black Keys sound so heroic.

Yet it’s the more nuanced twists in timbre that provide the biggest and most interesting departure from the Key’s earlier efforts. “All You Ever Wanted” kicks the record off gently enough, until a hot and heavy blast of organ spills the guts of the song out on the floor. Banjo plucker “Psychotic Girl” is a moody little nibbler, riding upbeat, licorice lines of bass with the “oohhs” and “aahhs” of accentuating vocal haunts. Then there’s this funny little phenomenon. Rich with woozy guitar effects and icy plunks on the dead cold keys of a glockenspiel, “So He Won’t Come Back” might remind listeners of (and I’m serious here) “Monster Mash”. If you can’t fathom that, try “I Put a Spell on You” instead. And “Same Old Thing” rarely embodies its’ title. With brutish “humphs” punching up the back end, and a mad piper scurrying ‘round the mix, the song is certainly something new.

All and all, Attack and Release comes along at a good time for the Keys. With four albums of minimalist, no frills fare tucked away over the last six years, the record could have marked the beginning of a rather bad trend– that being a pattern of authentic, yet matter of course releases. This, of course, would be a real shame considering how talented these two are. But wouldn’t you know it? Thanks to a (sad) twist of fate, the world may never know if The Black Keys had a bottoming out in ‘em. – David Pitz
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