The Black Keys – Attack and Release (Nonesuch Records)


This Akron duo’s fifth album may be the one to pull them out of the basement and into the mainstream. This is mostly thanks to producer Danger Mouse (Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley) who adds new colors to the group’s sound without compromising the raw soul and gritty blues attack they’ve been honing since 2002’s debut The Big Come Up. Recording for Attack and Release began when the group wrote and recorded music for an Ike Turner album Danger Mouse was producing. When Turner passed away in 2007, the group realized the music they were working on could work as Black Keys songs, so they kept it for themselves. At first, Danger Mouse’s sonic overhaul is jarring – after all the group always produced themselves, sticking almost uniformly to a minimal guitar/drum set-up. However, all the new shiny bells and whistles work because they enhance the songs, not draw attention away from them. For example, “Psychotic Girl” features spooky choruses, synths, and possibly even a bass, but still sounds like the type of song you would expect from the Black Keys – just a better version of it. The album’s closer, “Thing Ain’t Like They Used To Be” is a another first for the group – a country-tinged duet, with eighteen-year-old country singer Jessica Lea Mayfield adding harmonies. The lead single, “Strange Times” is a garage thumper that’s closer to band’s prior work, but rips harder than anything they’ve done before and wouldn’t sound out of place on Modern Rock radio. All things considered, Attack and Release is a brave and necessary step forward. Don’t be surprised if you find it popping up on many critics’ year-end Top Ten lists.

Tracklisting

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 and Streams
11. Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be