The Black Keys

Black Keys
“Attack & Release”
Nonesuch Records: April 2008

Corn-fed blues-rock duo, the Black Keys, redefine their indomitable Delta blues sound in latest studio venture, “Attack & Release.” The record stands as the Keys’ most adventurous and poignantly artistic album to date, featuring broadened instrumentation, psychedelic and trip hop backbeats, and a whole lot of electronic: synth, moog, and Syndrum (oh my!) Fans of their former, filthier pursuits will be undoubtedly taken aback- it sounds as if someone overdubbed Mississippi Fred McDowell with Vanilla Fudge’s greatest hits. Wholly unnecessary; after all, we have the White Stripes for such kitschy punk blues departures. The change is, in part, due to the Keys’ collaboration with producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who’s mixing method, heard on the “Grey Album” (a clever fusing of Jay-Z with the Beatles), drips its polished, city know-how all over this gritty, bottleneck record. He does to blues what Amy Winehouse does to soul, though I’m not entirely sure we’re as willing to embrace the difference. In his defense, Burton thought the material would go into a promising new album for the late Ike Turner, whose watered down version of the blues lacks the rough and tumble punch of the Keys’ four previous basement-side productions. Black Keys purists will scoff at the album’s mid-fi attempt at Delta grime and acrimony. But like it or not, the Black Keys make a resounding statement in their acerbic pseudo-requiem: “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be.”