The Black Keys – “Let’s Rock”

The instrumentation was there, the songs sounded like The Black Keys, but all together I thought this record was missing that spark that made El Camino so great. They really captured lightning in a bottle with that release, and it almost felt like they were trying to recreate that commercial success by upping the production value for this album; that was the exact approach a band like this needs to stray from. I think they’ve made a passable blues rock record here, but a very sterile and boring entry for their specific catalog.

I found out about this band years ago when they were featured on a punk comp, which is pretty rare for a band that ended up with enough mass appeal to be featured at the start of every NHL playoff game here in 2019. Their recordings sounded raw. Clean enough for the radio of course, but just trashy enough for the indie credit. “Let’s Rock” has all the bland radio appeal we’re used to, without any of the stuff that made them appealing in the first place.

There were a few interesting moments on the record, “Lo/Hi” has a second drum track that pokes out from the background with ghost notes, and I thought that was a very inventive way to keep a pop sensible beat, and incorporate more intricate drumming. The usage of organs and keyboards on this record worked very well. Songs like “Walk Across The Water” were bolstered by their presence, and given a more interesting feel. In fact, in opposition to their previous releases, the slower songs in this record were by in large the better songs.

It seems like they took a different approach to writing the record. If their previous releases were punk sensible ode’s to the 30’s 40’s and 50’s blues movements, this one was undeniably indistinguishable from 70’s Adult rock records. I hate to insult my man Steve Miller, but this just sounds like a version of his stuff, all the way down to Dan Auerbach’s vocals. I never noticed how similar the two sounded until Auerbach’s voice was juxtaposed with similar music to Miller’s.

All together, this was by no means a bad record in the grand scheme of things, but I felt like it fell short of the high bar they’ve set for themselves by previously producing such an incredible catalog. Again, there are plenty of fun moments, but following record with such clout as “Brothers” “El Camino” and “Turn Blue” is always going to be an uphill battle. I appreciate the exploration with the extra fuzz on the guitars, and keyboards but ultimately it couldn’t save this one from being boring in comparison to everything else they’ve released.

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