Review: Brothers by The Black Keys

The Black Keys’ new album Brothers, to be released May 18 2010, is a fantastic collection of songs and tales that will take you on a dark, soulful (and sometimes sinful), reverb-soaked journey – complete with psychedelic scenery.

There are tales of triumph and treason, of revelry and revenge, of  desire, and of death. This time around The Black Keys bring less of their signature 6-string sound, and more keys and bass guitar. There is plenty of percussion present (maracas, sleigh bells!?), and heavy doses of fuzz, wah-wah, and tremolo/vibrato. There are even some guest vocals on four tracks by Nikki Wray (Blakroc).

This is “psych-soul” in its absolute purest form.

Everlasting Light” (with its T-Rex vibe) is the perfect opener highlighted by Dan throwin’ down some great falsetto vocals, remarkably in just ONE TAKE! “She’s Long Gone” has a droning & intoxicating riff and a matching tribal beat that’ll have you in a trance before you can say “Radio Moscow”. And the instrumental masterpiece “Black Mud” sounds something like a late-night back-alley bare-knuckle boxing match between CCR and Black Sabbath! (Ozzy, not Dio)

Dan brings back those falsetto vocals as the band takes a slight step towards disco on “The Only One“, before the journey finds us riding horseback towards a Sonoran desert sunset with an ass-pocket full of whiskey on “Too Afraid To Love You” (which sounds an awful lot like a long lost B-side to Dan’s “When I Left The Room”). It’s a haunting, glorious, modern-day cowboy song, with a serious southwestern feel to it.

10 Cent Pistol” has a classic (albeit darker) 1960’s Detroit/Motown vibe – it sounds like it could easily be the more soulful/sinister/psychedelic sister of “Stack Shot Billy”. And “Sinister Kid” is a slinky, steamy, southern sex-machine that will have you bobbing your head in seconds flat. It’s THE song I wanna hear on my next visit to the strip club – with only the finest “T&A” shakin’ just for daddy! The raunchy, gritty slide-guitar solo ALONE is worth the price of admission.

I’m Not The One” is an epic, tension-building, reggae-ish anthem of an unlikely hero. Speaking of unlikely heroes, “Unknown Brother” is a beautiful song that could easily be mistaken for the best of John Lennon’s solo stuff (and that is a HUGE compliment). Towards the end, The Black Keys do full-powered justice to Jerry Butler’s “Never Give You Up” – especially Dan, whose vocals are “oh so pretty” and chock-full of emotion.

Brothers finishes strong, and leaves us feeling a bit nostalgic with the powerful ballad “These Days“. The metal glockenspiel sprinkled throughout suits this tune perfectly, and the lyrics/vocals will have you goosebumped and smiling while you reach for the nearest box of tissues.

Overall, Brothers is a solid album that’s bound for success. It seems like a very natural progression for The Black Keys, it has elements from several of their recent projects. I’d probably describe it as a mix of approximately 40% “Keep It Hid”, 40% The Black Keys, and 20% Blakroc. It’s easily packing the necessary heat to propel the band to the next level of superstardom. Only time will tell.

12 thoughts on “Review: Brothers by The Black Keys

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  2. Awesome sounding album… sometimes though i think the guitar solos where rambling and didnt really have a feel of going anywhere. And the songs would build and build and then fizzle (not the direction i want a keys song to go… it should explode :P) my opinion will change the more i listen to the album though so don’t panic. Totally different sound for the keys, almost like a different band. Great songs, i feel transported back to some hot steamy part of America where things simmer dangerously but have a veneer of politeness, southern charm and respect… all false of course because if you linger too long and stare at the wrong woman you get shot haha! Enjoy, i think this is almost like a film album if that makes sense. Not one for the “find a track and rock out” like their other albums more of a find the album and sit back… or find the album and then find your woman and have a naughty night in!

  3. I’ve done a review on facebook, i’ve nabbed some of your lines mirby for a couple of the songs if you dont mind haha. you summed them up the way i woulda wanted anways lol… i would post it here but theres loads of spelling mistakes grammar mistakes and general rambling so its probs best jst staying on fb for ma mates haha! peace!

  4. Yeah I guess technically I “stole” the album (even though I’ve already pre-ordered it on several formats), so what can I really say about you stealing my words?

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  6. yeah, i absolutely love the Black Keys, but i’m pretty upset about “She’s Long Gone” Anyone reconcile this for me after listening to Radio Moscow’s Luckydutch? Tribute? Permission from the band? What’s going on there?

  7. There are two things to keep in mind here. One, you can say that about many of the tracks on Brothers – “oh this reminds me of _____”. And two, Dan played a big part in Radio Moscow’s success, and he produced their debut, so I think TBK is entitled to do a “tribute”. Just my $0.02, I don’t think anyone is tealing or ripping anyone off. Radio Moscow is badass (just saw them on 4/20) but one might say “oh they are just ripping off Jimi Hendrix Experience”… as long as it’s groovy, it’s all good.

  8. Yeah I caught Radio Moscow on the 14th in NYC. They are amazing. I guess you’re right, theres a lot of sharing, although the riff is the exact same and I’m not sure how thats supposed to fly. Either way not gunna change anything for me, just makes me slightly uncomfortable.

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