Friday, July 7, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Attack & Release, by The Black Keys

By the year 2008 The Black Keys had put out four moderately successful albums, all of which they had made by themselves in their basement with no professional outside help at all. Now that the band was picking up traction and starting to evolve in their sound a bit however, they got picked up by V2 Records and were brought into an actual studio for the first time with famed producer Danger Mouse at the helm to write and record the album Attack & Release. This would be the start of a musical partnership that has taken The Black Keys through all their best known albums up to today.

Attack & Release showed what The Black Keys could do when given a studio and a budget to make their music. Where the music no longer had a raw, bluesy, punchy feel, it now had a more refined produced sound. While the band had always had a bit of a psychedelic tinge to some of their previous music, this is the album where they started to delve further into it. It helps that now the music had more than just guitar, vocals, and drums. Now there was bass and keys (played by Danger Mouse) among other guest musicians on certain instruments. Some of the best known tunes from this album are ones like I Got Mine and Strange Times.

I Got Mine is sort of a middle of the road transitionary piece in my opinion. You can still hear that punchy bluesy overtone that made the Black Keys famous to begin with, but you can also tell that this time there was some more studio craftsmanship going on. The guitar sounds a lot more crisp and defined and there is bass to add a bottom layer. It has a solid groove to it like the old stuff, though you can also hear Dan Auerbach starting to transition from his old deep soulful vocal style to the more falsetto pop rock style that most folks associate with him.

Psychotic Girl has to be one of my favorite newer Black Keys songs. It's primarily played on banjo and bass with drum backing, but doesn't sound jangly and country-esque. It has more of a foreboding psychedelic vibe to it, which I think suits the lyrical content about a crazy girlfriend trying to do you harm. You wouldn't think such a thing could be done with a banjo, but it works out beautifully. One of my favorite aspects of the song though are the subtle touches of piano sprinkled throughout certain parts of the song to make it sound more mysterious.

Overall this is nowhere near my favorite Black Keys album and it does mark the end of my favorite era of the band, but that by no means makes it any less of a solid album. You're not going to get the raw, untamed straight-up blues sound here but what you will get is some more refined psychedelic rock in the style of Pink Floyd meets The Beatles meets maybe one or two others. It's good for if you want some music that will open your mind a bit and make you jump down an aural rabbit hole.

Attack & Release, by The Black Keys receives 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

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

Buy the album on Amazon:

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