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Published on August 19th, 2019 | by voxx

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The Black Keys – Let’s Rock

The blues rock duo end their five-year hiatus in electrifying style…

For such an unassuming band, The Black Keys give good soap opera. Divorce, physical injury and simmering tension between singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney precipitated a lengthy cooling-off period following 2014’s Turn Blue.

Five years later, the hiatus is over and the break has done them good. Let’s Rock, the title taken from the last words of a Death Row inmate facing the electric chair in the duo’s adopted home state of Tennessee – sounds like the work of a band reinvigorated. It’s the inverse of its predecessor: where Turn Blue was moody and preoccupied, here the sweet robo-boogie of ‘Lo/Hi’ and the Nashville-infused ‘Sit Around And Miss You’ sound like they’re basking in the sun.

Sonically, it’s the most frictionless record they’ve ever made, a universe away from the primitive garage-blues that propelled them to prominence. The white boy soul of ‘Walk Across The Water’ glides effortlessly by, while even its brashest moments – such as outlaw romance ‘Under The Gun’, ‘Go’, a thinly-disguised re-write of 2011’s ‘Lonely Boy’ – are lubricated by Auerbach’s right-side-of-soporific vocals. But if his voice is laid-back, his ideas are anything but. ‘Breaking Down’ crams cod-psychedelic wooziness, ghostly cowboy funk and a handclap chorus into its three minutes and 18 seconds.

Yet for all its surface smoothness, there’s a taut undercurrent to Let’s Rock that keeps it in sharp focus. It’s evident in Carney’s impatient Midwest motorik and the occasional blast of frustrated guitar fuzz from Auerbach. They’ve drunk deep from the reservoir of renewed energy – or maybe those tensions haven’t completely dissipated. Doubtless it will become apparent which, but for now it’s working for them.

- By Jake White


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