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The Black Keys - Let's Rock (Album Review)

Monday, 08 July 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

After five years of side projects and production work, the Black Keys reconvened at Dan Auerbach’s Nashville studio to lay down album number nine. In a return to the ways of old, ‘Let’s Rock’ found Auerbach and Patrick Carney building songs from scratch through riffing and jamming together, the chemistry of their reconnection driving them on after a lengthy hiatus following the Danger Mouse-produced ‘Turn Blue’ in 2014.

‘Let’s Rock’, named after the last words of a death row inmate facing execution, is a self-produced album, resulting in no keyboards and very little in the way of other layers as the band get back to their earlier, heavier guitar-based songs, planting themselves firmly in the ballpark of radio rock from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The first single to hit the airwaves was the excellent Lo/Hi, a polished cut boasting a cracking riff. The classic rock nods are plentiful elsewhere, too, with Under The Gun’s intro recalling T.Rex and AC/DC and ZZ Top influences popping up throughout, including on the simple yet impressive slowie Walk Across The Water.

Sit Around And Miss You, meanwhile, goes even further in becoming a close relative of Stealers Wheel’s classic Stuck in the Middle With You.

The Black Keys’ big commercial breakthrough came with 2011’s ‘El Camino’, through the band’s most listenable tracks like Gold On The Ceiling and Lonely Boy, and while things are tempered in comparison, there are similar moments on ‘Let’s Rock’.

Closer Fire Walk With Me is a perfect example, where a more upbeat vibe produces a catchy gem. Get Yourself Together also recalls their poppier moments on a chugging cut, while Go’s riff is happy to hint at past glories. Opener Shine A Little Light is built around a single, huge riff as Auerbach sings “we all decompose, slowly disappear” and it’s among the album’s best tracks, as is its successor Eagle Birds where the band’s taste for blues-drenched rock resurfaces.  

Every track here is under four minutes and, as a result, there’s a sense of quick turnover as songs come and go. Not many leave too much of a lasting impression, though. This approach has resulted in an easily digested album and another to be proud of in most respects, but Lo/Hi aside, ‘Let’s Rock’ lacks standout, top class songs. It’s another good album but, ultimately, not a great one.

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