After a 5 year hiatus, The Black Keys returned in late June to release their 9th studio album. The album is titled Let’s Rock, the final phrase uttered by Edmund Zagorski, the first man executed by electric chair in Tennessee in over a decade (hence the eye-popping cover art). It was produced at vocalist and guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Nashville studio, Easy Eye Sound. The duo, composed of Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, recorded the album from September to January, writing all songs spontaneously in the studio.
The rarely changing tone of Let’s Rock comes through from the opener, “Shine a Little Light,” a hard-rocking, simply written song about the roller coaster of dating. Every song on the album discusses either the bliss or pain of love. Almost every song also features the iconic, original sound that Auerbach and Carney produce together. Auerbach’s guitar shrieks and his reverb laden vocals instantly identify the album as one by the Black Keys. “Eagle Birds” and “Lo/Hi,” the first single released off the album, both feature the instrumentation that have made their previous albums successful. The songs are riddled with feedback and crisp riffs over Carney’s basic, driving drums.
The first half of the album powers through the speakers. “Walk Across the Water,” however, slows the pace, featuring groovy drums and light, accented riffs reminiscent of British Blues players like Denny Laine of the Moody Blues. This song features one of Let’s Rock’s meaner, growling guitar solos. The following song, “Tell Me Lies,” which features an echoic solo and choir is frequently played on pop radio stations.
The second half of the album features few noteworthy songs, yet monotony rarely kicks in. The occasionally over-familiar sound and uninspired lyrics are overpowered by the feel-good, hard rocking instrumentation and vocals. “Sit Around and Miss You” is one of the only songs that changes the vibe of the album, inducing a folksy, Bob Dylan ballad feel. The latter half also gives the listener “Go,” another song seeing frequent airplay. “Go” is a classic Black Keys tune with a rising solo and vocals full of imagery and symbolism.
Let’s Rock will not go down as the Black Keys most influential album, but it gives the listener what blues and rock fans need: high-quality, head-banging music. Their reunion album stays true to their patented sound, and after 5 years of side projects they don’t seem to have missed a day. Let’s Rock will undoubtedly satisfy die-hard fans, purists, and pop listeners.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Eagle Birds
– Walk Across the Water
– Tell me Lies
The Big Hit
Review by Spencer Rubin