Monday, May 12, 2008

The Black Keys - Attack & Release

The new Black Keys album came out recently and I was excited. They were bringing Danger Mouse into the fold for the production on the album. It would seem to be an interesting choice that would surely bring some new ideas to the table for the Akron, Ohio blues duo. But, along the way there were also some potential red flags. The Black Keys have never recorded in an actual studio before and now they were. Danger Mouse has been known more for his hip-hop work than anything with old-school teeth like blues. Would these things play major factors in what the group produced or would they just be part of the musical story?

After a few listens this much is true of Attack & Release: this isn't the rough around the edges blues-rock the Black Keys have made previously. This album is slick. This album is clean. This album feels polished and buffed. Unfortunately, this album doesn't send chills up your back. To put it another way, Danger Mouse has rubbed off most of the patina to the Black Keys. The music is still recognizable as theirs, but it's lost the dirt and grunge that made it worth so much more. Some things shouldn't be cleaned up and the music of The Black Keys is one of them. The music needs to feel instantaneous like they wrote the song a couple days before recording it. Instead, this album feels deliberate as if they thought, "okay, put crunchy guitar riff here. put shuffle-beat drums here. on second thought let's put this here and maybe this over there." It sounds more premeditated. It sounds like they had too much money and too much time in an actual studio. Don't get me wrong, the album is still quite good, but it's not that vintage Rubber Factory feel. It also doesn't have the same drive as their previous efforts. I don't know if all this can be attributed to the producer and the surroundings, but I like to think it's part of how it happened.

The Black Keys (Attack & Release, 2008) - "I Got Mine"

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