Music Review: The Black Keys – Brothers (2010)

From the very get go, Brothers is all about the swagger and the strut.  It’s also about grime, kicking ass and letting your junk swing free.  You could practically reach out and knock the dirt right off of it, but of course you won’t want to; this is a sty you’ll want to roll around in like the swine, celebrate it like a child.  Make no mistake, The Black Keys are a grown up band who make grown up music, but they’ve made a record that’s mature enough to take a step back and rediscover what made the blues-rock genre so engaging in the first place.  It’s the brazen youthfulness without the naivete.  It’s a complete ownership that is wisely taken for granted.  It’s good, soft mud.

Don’t be fooled for a moment into thinking this is a boyish record; it’s got a nasty sex appeal, fueled in part by Dan Auerbach’s increased appreciation for R&B infused blues.  The unexpected falsetto on opener “Everlasting Light”, the immediately classic melodies of “Next Girl”, the rambunctious and infectious “Howlin’ for You”, indeed the general level of well rationed polish and funk; all contribute to a record that has universal appeal while staying admirably true to its roots.  The law is laid down from the outset.  There is a clear purpose to this album and it follows through with all the reckless authority of Electric Warrior meets Electric Mudd, but with a fresh level of conciseness that The Black Keys have always handled so well.

That said, the album is longer than one might expect from the sound of the opening tracks, and it’s easy to think that this album would benefit from trimming a track or two.  Individually judged however, it’s hard to bear the thought of just about any of these tracks not making the cut.  The slow numbers, “The Only One” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” are both stellar in their own rights and fit snugly into the flow of the almost flawlessly paced album.  Not every song is particularly eventful, take “The Go-Getter” or “I’m Not the One” for instance, but even those bear endearing marks on an album full of tracks that don’t need each other but sound great together.  Each track is a unique, finely crafted gear that works to move the entire unit forward.  Yes, the machine is a bit rickety.  Not every song is perfect.  But so many of them feel like they might be, and they operate with such unity that griping feels contrived.  Brothers is part punishment and part celebration; critique doesn’t fit into the equation.  Brothers is an album that’s easy to enjoy in the midst of its possible shortcomings.

The bottom line is, this is an extremely intelligent record that isn’t spoiled by self-awareness; it’s genuine without being niche.  Is it accidentally great?  Maybe.  The Black Keys don’t give a fuck.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Final Score: 9.2/10

Highlights: Next Girl,  She’s Long Gone, Ten Cent Pistol,  Sinister Kid


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