Monday, March 11, 2013

Actually Two White Dudes

There are a few bands that make it huge commercially, but not right away.  REM, NoFX, and Green Day come to mind.  This next band discovered that selling out isn't necessarily a bad thing, when the money is right, and it doesn't compromise your musicianship.

The Black Keys
The Big Come Up
Alive, 2002

Patrick Carney- drums, percussion, producer
Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Gabe Fulvimar - moog bass on selected tracks

  • Leavin Trunk/She Said, She Said

The Black Keys
Thick Freakness
Fat Possum, 2003

Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Patrick Carney - drums, percussion, producer

  • Set you Free/ Hard Row/ Evil
  • Hard Row/ Evil
  • Have Love, Will Travel
My brother actually discovered this band for me, and I received the first two albums together, back to back. Chuck Klosterman stated that The Big Comeup was one of 21 high quality albums to be released between 2002 and 2005.  I instantly loved the raw blues rock sound, and agreed with the idea that they were a more talented White Stripes with a better drummer.  The cover songs on these two albums are fantastic, preserving the classic songs without being total rip off copies.  The Beatles, Chuck Berry, and Junior Kimbaugh are done severe justice.

Black Keys
Rubber Factory
Fat Possum, 2004

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion, production
Dan Auerbach - guitar, bass, fiddle, lap steel, vocals

singles - 
  • 10AM Autmatic/ Stack Shot Billy/ Summertime Blues
  • Til I get my Way/ Girl is on my Mind/ Flash of Silver
I think this may be my favorite Black Keys record.  It is named after the abandoned building that they recorded it in, in Akron.  10 AM Automatic has a music video, which is well worth watching.  Also, it features a great Robert Pete Williams cover, Grown So Ugly.  They also cover an Ed Davies song.  A few tracks ended up featured in a few movie soundtracks like Black Snake Moan, Live Free or Die, and The Go Getter.  

Black Keys
Attack and Release
Nonesuch, 2008
produced by Danger Mouse

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Dan Auerbach - guitars, vocals, banjo, lap steel
Danger Mouse - Hohner bass, moog and korg synthesizers, piano

  • Strange Times/ Something on my Mind
  • I Got Mine/ Here I am I Always am
  • Same Old Thing
  • All You've Ever Wanted
This is the first album the Black Keys did outside of a basement, or the rubber factory, in a professional studio with a producer not named Patrick Carney.  I was pretty disappointed with this release at the time, as it is a departure from the crunchy DIY blues sound of the first few albums.  It is far more professional sounding than the other releases, which I thought took away from the charm of the band, one of the reasons I liked the band so much to start with.  Also, the fact that it was a two person band and all (most) of the sounds heard were just from two guys was pretty incredible.  But now, there were more sounds, synthed sounds, keys, backing vocals, a duet even.  This is actually not a bad record, but their other stuff prior to this was way more interesting and rocked harder.

Black Keys
Nonesuch, 2010
produced by Danger Mouse and Mark Neill

Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Dan Aeurbach - guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards

  • Tighten Up/ Howling for You
  • Next Girl
  • Ohio
  • Howling for You
It is about this time that the Black Keys were heard everywhere.  Car commercials used their riffs, tracks popped up in the soundtrack of television shows on a regular basis.  And then... radio play!

A little bit about what happens between this album and the last album before we go on... things I learned while reading and listening to interviews... Dan Aeurbach recorded and released a solo album Keep it Hid without telling Carney, which I bought.  Patrick Carney started playing in another band called Drummer and released an album without Auerbach (I didn't know that until now, actually).  The pair had grown apart due to Carney's rocky relationship with his wife.  But when they split up and divorced, the Black Keys got back together.  Seems the Yoko Ono situation worked itself out.

This album is the aftermath of events that could have kept the band apart indefinitely.  This album is what Attack and Release wished it was.  Breakout hit singles propelled the album to number 3 on the Billboard top 200, and the single Tighten Up spent 10 weeks at number one on the Alternative Songs chart.  The songs speak of love lost and found, brotherhood, and a reconnection with classic genres of the blues and country.  Even the album cover is an homage to Howlin Wolf.

The Black Keys
El Camino
Nonesuch, 2011
produced by Danger Mouse

Dan Auerbach - guitars, bass, vocals
Patrick Carney - drums, percussion
Brian Burton - keyboards

singles -

  • Lonely Boy/ Run Right Back
  • Gold on the Ceiling
  • Dead and Gone
  • Little Black Submarines
Danger Mouse was brought back as a producer for this record full time.  The album expands on the success of Brothers and continues to move the band further from the roots blues of their past, and closer to a more mainstream hard rock band.  They also used a keyboard player full time for the first time.  The influences of bands like Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Ramones, and The Cars can be heard throughout the record.  Of course, the band continued to receive attention, radio play, and their music used in television, movies, and advertising.  This band will definitely be one to watch as they continue to evolve and grow.  

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