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The Black Keys - Ohio Players (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Jim Herrington

The Black Keys’ 12th studio LP took more than a year to complete, although it’s a wonder it didn’t take longer given the duo’s extra-curricular commitments. Dan Auerbach’s side project the Arcs released their excellent ‘Electronic Chronic’ collection as recently as early 2023, for example, while he and Patrick Carney hammered out ‘Ohio Players’ with a helping hand from a plethora of contributors.

In fact, Candy and her Friends is the only song here written solely by the core pairing but, even then, its best moment belongs to someone else. The track showcases their love of hip-hop with a verse from Lil Noid, which is ill-fitting but still more interesting than its pedestrian opening stanza. Paper Crown follows the same structure as Juicy J enlivens a Beck-assisted cut, but altogether it’s a mess.

Noel Gallagher features on three tracks, all recorded at the tiny London studio Toe Rag, but his presence feels forced. Of his contributions, the bouncy funk of Only Love Matters fares best, whereas On The Game is dull. You’ll Pay is over in the blink of an eye, leaving little in the way of a lasting impression.

Carney has described ‘Ohio Players’ as a “party” record, and it’s easy to make such a statement with the roll call continuously changing.

Opener This is Nowhere was written by the pair with Beck. It is by no means the worst effort here, but it’s hardly original. Daniel Nakamura (Dan the Automator) contributes to Beautiful People (Stay High) but again it lacks originality, at times sounding like Kasabian trying to perform either Halleluwah by Can or the Happy Mondays song it inspired, Hallelujah.

Elsewhere, Live Till I Die benefits from a decent chorus, Don’t Let Me Go is catchy enough to be the most commercial track of the lot, and Read Em and Weep features guitars that nostalgically hark back to the Shadows. Ironically, the best song on the album is a cover of  William Bell and Booker T. Jones’s I Forgot to be Your Lover, which finds the band’s bluesy roots with its laid back, cool vibe. 

By the time closer Everytime You Leave comes around it’s hard not to be a little bored, which is a remarkable achievement given the running time is under 45 minutes. But that’s a relief, in reality, as its 14 songs were chopped down from close to 50, more than enough for a double album but that would have been way too much. With patience and attention among listeners continuing to recede as a result of today’s quick fix culture, ‘Ohio Players’ does indeed feel like a party record, but it's one lacking a unifying theme.

The Black Keys Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat April 27 2024 - MANCHESTER Co-op Live
Tue April 30 2024 - CARDIFF Utilita Arena
Fri May 03 2024 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Tue May 07 2024 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Wed May 08 2024 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Thu May 09 2024 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

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