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Black Keys - Attack and Release

  by Sarah Mwangi

published: 22 / 4 / 2008

Black Keys - Attack and Release
Label: V2
Format: CD


Experimental fifth album from Akron-based garage rock duo Black Keys which fnds them working with synthesisers, banjos and an organ and a producer, Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, all for the first time to mixed results

Brightly coloured half-price stickers on the albums of yesteryear’s artists were a blur in my peripheral vision as I shuffled through the alphabetised aisles of HMV. I usually take this subconscious trip on Sundays to see what the week’s sale has to offer. What I found was the same drivel as last month; nothing that could pry the money out of my hands. Just as I was about to cut the routine short, I came across a listening booth with a selection of three CDs, one of which was worth a listen. The Black Keys’ new album, 'Attack & Release', had been making regular appearances in the soundtrack to my life for a couple of weeks now, but I couldn’t resist slipping the headphones on and giving it another listen. Knowing the highlights, I skipped 'All Your Ever Wanted',the first track, and went straight for the stomp and howl of ‘I Got Mine’, written for the late great Ike Turner. With Turner in mind, Dan Auerbach exposes the hues of his gruff vocals as they melt the phonetics of the words he sings. As well as 'I Got Mine', 'Strange Times' and 'Remember When (Side B)' paint the picture of forgotten streets seen through murky coloured glasses, where Patrick Carney’s drumming is a wild abandoned animal chained to a lamp post in the background. Notably, the songs I selected were the ones which stayed true to the Keys’ signature sound (loud, raw and gritty) and perhaps the ones that producer Brian Burton’s (Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse) influence is at its subtlest. As genuine as their sound is, it doesn’t mean that the other songs in the album lack that. They just sound different. Well, with the addition of a banjo, organ, female duo partner and synthesisers things are bound to be different. The question is whether these new additions are heard positively. The answer can be found in ‘Same Old Thing’, which is anything but. The heaviness of the instruments start off well with Auerbach’s yowling cutting through the slow burning groove. The excitement of these new pastures, however, soon wears off and make you feel as lethargic as you would feel after a Sunday roast. And like the meal, you’ll need time before you can listen to it again. The main difference that stands the test of time is the clarity of this album compared to their previous offerings. Where the previous self-produced albums have sounded as if recorded at a distance, 'Attack & Release' starts and ends inches from your ear. Credit to Brian Burton who doesn’t let this studio refined sound overpower the duo but expands their repertoire for the better. All that is needed to tie the album in a red plush bow, is an earnest tale of woe, good enough to rival their heart-rending The Lengths (in Rubber Factory). ‘Things Ain’t Like The Used To Be’ sees the duo venture once more into new depths as Auerbach is accompanied by bluegrass singer Jessica Lea Mayfield to as they acknowledge that honeymoon period is over. Placing the headphones back in their place, I felt as though I was intertwined in Auerbach’s and Mayfield’s broken relationship and that no £5.99 CD could change that. I left empty handed.

Track Listing:-
1 All You Ever Wanted
2 I Got Mine
3 Strange Times
4 Psychotic Girl
5 Lies
6 Remember When (Side A)
7 Remember When (Side B)
8 Same Old Thing
9 So He Won't Break
10 Oceans & Streams
11 Things Ain't Like They Used to Be

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Interview (2008)
Black Keys - Interview
Akron-based duo the Black Keys have been attracting much acclaim for their garage blues rock. Sarah Mwangi speaks to singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach about their just released fifth album, 'Attack & Release', which has found them recording in a studio for the first time

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Shepherds Bush Empire, 27/2/2007
Black Keys - Shepherds Bush Empire, 27/2/2007
At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, new writer Sarah Mwangi finds much of American blues duo the Black Keys' passion stolen by their insistent touring schedule
Scala, London, 23/5/2006


Strange Times (2008)
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