By John Smrtic
Thick, fuzzy guitar; minimalist drums with maximum impact; emotion, grit and wisdom far beyond that of two twenty-something year-old college dropouts. Yep... The Black Keys are back with LP number four, Magic Potion, sticking with the rattle and bang, grind and wail, no nonsense approach that has brought the duo critical acclaim and international success.
The band's debut for Nonesuch Records (a Warner Music spin-off) evokes an image of two kids with beautifully tormented souls, dreaming of the big time and playing their hearts out in some garage in Anytown, USA. But make no mistake, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are already big time - and the garage is now Carney's basement studio in their hometown of Akron, Ohio. Exploring love, heartache and suffering, this simple-yet-somehow-sophisticated blend of low-tech, blues-rooted rock 'n' roll has launched The Keys into the stratosphere of the music world.
The raging "Just Got To Be" kicks off Magic Potion in high gear, signaling the boys' return to prominence, and sets the tone for the entire album. Here, Auberbach's signature chunky, distorted guitar sound goes hand-in-hand with his raw, impassioned vocals. On other exemplary tracks like "Strange Desire," it becomes clear that the pair has ascended to bona fide rock star status (if they hadn't already.) A riffing Auerbach kicks off that track howling one of the album's more memorable lines: "I don't want to go to hell/ but if I do/ it'll be 'cause of you. Meanwhile, Carney's stomp-like cadence melds perfectly throughout, giving the group its amazing sense of oneness. Cuts "The Flame" and "Goodbye Babylon" further display how well these guys work together, showcasing The Black Keys' trademark unified sound and message of discontent.
Key's purists may find the occasional use of vocal effects a potentially problematic departure from tradition. Also, there are a few lyrical weak points (ie: "Your Touch") and at album number four, some occasional moments of thematic monotony. However, for a band that has remarkably only been together for five years, its savagely soothing sound and confident desperation strongly win out. When all is said and done, Magic Potion is a solid contribution to The Black Keys' stature as one of today's best American rock bands.
JamBase | Ohio
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