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The Black Keys: Brothers
This bluesy rock music duo hails from Akron, Ohio and although they’ve been around for nine years, their intricate sound and Americana feel have often gone unnoticed. Vocalist and guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have been all over the music board, from independent indie releases to self-produced solo albums.
With over five albums on tap since their start in 2001, the Black Keys have seemingly struggled to find their place in the music scene. However, with their latest release of Brothers on May 18th, the fifteen-track listing has taken them to Nr.3 on the billboard charts and selling more albums than ever before.
Progressing from the airy falsetto love track of ‘Everlasting Light’, ‘Howlin’ for You’ may initially take you back to the 90s with its opening sounds, but then it sends you into a trance of a little pavement rock n’ roll with Auerbach’s guitar licks and Carney’s heavy drum beats. It’s grungy, it’s rough and full of lustful expression; leaving you feeling weak for that special someone.
The use of the harpsichord and Auerbach’s floating vocals of ‘Too Afraid to Love You’ brings an almost eerie feel to the battle of human love and mindless confusion.
‘Sinister Kid’ brings about more of a playful attitude, turning from love to introspection and the devilish motives that the human mind can be consumed with. From the backing vocals to Auerbach’s raging honesty, the song proposes a seriously strategized meeting between garage rock to flat-out Southern gospel.
Reminiscent of the past and questioning the present, they wind up the album with 'These Days.' Between the heavy melancholic sound to Auerbach’s styling of sadness, his aches are laid out on the surface: 'Violent colours so obscene, It is all I see these days,' he sings.
If you’re anything like this reviewer, you would agree that good rock n’ roll is better left to Hendrix and his 1960s comrades. However, every now and then, a little musical sensation comes along and takes you by surprise. Although it seems overly ambitious to produce a fifteen-album track with a little depth missing at points, the Black Keys have done something right with Brothers, and is definitely worth recognising.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
Having released no new material for almost a decade, Metallica finally return to the scene with their latest album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Written mostly by James Hatfield and Lars Ulrich, this is the first album that doesn’t include any song writing contributions from Kirk Hammett since he joined the band in 1983; when the album was being written, he lost his phone in a Copenhagen airport which included 250 riff ideas so he had to start from scratch.
The two disk album has 12 tracks in total with 6 on each that still retain the thrash metal vibe that Metallica has come to be known for. Following the same fast pace, the first song ,‘Hardwired’ starts with a steady drum and guitar riff that will get you head banging and tapping your feet in no time.
With strong songs like ‘Moth into Flame’ and ‘Halo on Fire’, the first disk has the familiar thrash tropes that make it what it is; it’s fast, it’s hard, it’s in your face and has an attitude, which is what makes Metallica so awesome.
However, the first disk is not without fault; the fifth song ‘Dream No More’ feels out of place musically as its rhythm and guitar work doesn’t feel cohesive with the rest of the songs on the disk, as if it was supposed to be on a different disk or in another album as it goes from fast then slow and conflicting itself.
The second disk, on the other hand, starts on a different note with songs like ’Am I Savage?’ and ‘Here Comes Revenge’ following a slower tone than the rest of the album, though ’Spit out the Bone’ might be the fastest song on the whole album and will surely make you feel like you need to catch your breath afterwards.
As a whole, the album sounds like one huge song, especially the first disk which feels fluid and, in a way, follows a rhythmic pattern; however, the second feels a bit tamed and toned down, as even though it has some fast-as-lighting guitar work, it still lacks some oomph to it. Still, it offers a level of satisfaction for diehard fans who have waited for eight years for new material.
All in all, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is a great addition to the band’s discography; the band members have given it their all, while not showing their age. We just hope it doesn’t take them another eight years till the next one