The Black Keys are never going to invent the wheel. What they will do though is make it go in a partially enjoyable direction.
The Black Keys are the musical equivalent of Coke Cola. You know what you’re going to get with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. There are not many shocks when you hear their music. Their formula of garage blues rock has been a major success for them which has propelled them to the type stardom many of their peers can only dream of. So why change the recipe?
And like a certain fizzy soft drink, now and again there might be a minor change but the flavour remains the same. You’re tastebuds know what they’re about to encounter before you’ve pulled the ring pull.
Dropout Boogie is their latest album following on from Delta Kream, a collection of hill country blues covers and it gets off to a cracking start. ‘Wild Child’ is that type of song the duo are famed for. The thumping drums of Carney compliments the drawl of Auerbach’s vocals ideally. It won’t be long before the track earns it’s place on the bands greatest hits playlist you’ve compiled and could well be their biggest single to date.
‘It Ain’t Over’ and ‘For The Love of Money’ keep the momentum going. You can tell there’s a chemistry between the pair, one bonded by a love of rock n’ roll. Twenty years after their debut and over two since the landmark release of El Camino the band could do this sort of thing in their sleep.
There’s always been a bit of a mischievous element to the band as if they don’t take themselves too seriously. And they keep it going with a ‘Your Team Is Looking Good’ which has whistles, backing vocals sounding like cheerleaders and may as well be called ‘Here’s A Song We Think Will Be A Hit With Ice Hockey Fans And Will Make Us Millions In Royalties When It Gets Played At Games.’
Dropout Boogie does have a bit of a lull. ‘Good Love’ featuring ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons isn’t as remarkable as you’d hope. The ironically names ‘How Long’ outstays its welcome with its radio-friendly mediocrity trying a bit too hard to win listeners over.
Thankfully things pick up with ‘Burn the Damn Thing Down’ that shuffles through with a linage harking back to The Beatles ‘I Feel Fine’ in its back pocket. ‘Baby I’m Coming Home’ has the group yearning to leave the road behind them to return to a loved one and does so in a glorious Seventies rock production. "The streets are paved with broken dreams/And fantasies that we’ve outgrown" laments Auerbach while him and Carney muster the spirit of vintage Zeppelin.
At just under thirty-five minutes in running length, it’s a ten-track album that doesn’t outstay. Instead, it does enough to transport you to a dive bar. Sawdust on the dancefloor, rolled up beer bottle labels on the bar and a sense of excitement and anticipation seeping through the walls.
The Black Keys are never going to invent the wheel. What they will do though is make it go in a partially enjoyable direction. One that rocks on the way. And I’ll drink to that.