At this point, The Black Keys are synonymous. Between extremely successful side projects and partnerships (Danger Mouse, BlakRoc, Jessica Lea Mayfield) and a respectable body of work, the name is less of a placeholder and more of an idea; a brand of blue-sy jive, and well-produced swagger (coming to a store near you). And like most brands, they are big because they do what they do well, and in massive quantities. Brothers
is no exception, clocking in at an hour, spread across fifteen tracks. It's worth noting: the files I received are huge (typically clocking in at 3-5 MB per song, each track is ten times that size), and that is probably the only acceptable way to own this thing in digital form. The sound is so engrossing it's almost tactile. The only way to listen to the record is high-fidelity, and loud.
Part of the credit goes to Mouse, who doesn't skimp on fattening up any of the sounds Auerbach and Carney create. The guitars sound like a chorus of human voices, emoting in layers incomprehensible with an MBox and a copy of Protools Lite. These guys are the poster children of production values. Although The Keys aren't reinventing bluesy rock, they bring a seasoned professionalism to the creation and execution. The brand is strong, respectable, and transparent. Just look at the album artwork, for chrissake. "This is an album by the Black Keys". What you see is what you get.
As to questions of the power-duo overtaking Jack White and his empire on the dirty blues, I'd say it's an irrelevant thought. Sure, The Keys and The Stripes were once compared and contrasted, but these days it's a moot point. They are two sides of the same coin; both revivalists, with White playing the spotlight driven head, and the Keys being the steadfast tails. White is on his third group of musicians, while the Keys have remained in the same configuration with the same name. They may both be in the same vein, but it's still apples and oranges, even if its the same farm. Also Jack White looks more like a vampire.
At the end of the day, The Black Keys are just a bunch of bluesy dudes playing with very expensive equipment, while a knob-twister who knows his sh*t makes it sound like (awesome) thunder and lightning. But they have a ton of fans, and they deserve them, because there is something dependable going on here. When you buy a pair of Converse All-Stars, you know EXACTLY what to expect over their lifetime. So too, do the Black Keys make promises, and deliver, even after five albums. And by the time Brothers
is dirty and falling apart, and your mom makes you throw it out, they'll have a nice, new, clean shoe for you to buy. And you will oblige, because it sounds so freakin' cool. -joe puglisi
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