Hold your jealousy, ladies and gentleman. Tomorrow evening, my best mate and I are attending what is looking to be one of the greatest events of the year: The Black Keys, live at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, featuring local garage kings Royal Headache. If you don’t know of The Black Keys, I am jealous myself of the upcoming joy and jubilation you will experience as you begin to learn of the brilliance of The Black Keys. Started up in 2001 in Ohio, The Black Keys have released 7 albums in their relatively short career. Although they have a staggering amount of material, The Black Keys never really hit the mainstream until their 2010 album ‘Brothers’ exploded, helped along healthily by their single ‘Tighten Up’, and the collection of 3 Grammy’s. They cemented their place as chart stars with their 2011 release ‘El Camino’, and the chart topper ‘Lonely Boy’. However, if you want to hear the real Black Keys, the band consisting of Patrick Carney and Dan Auberach, the blues rock band that re-invented the sound, then you might have to look back a bit further in their discography. Sure, ‘El Camino’ is a great album, and ‘Brothers’ is fantastic, but if you look at the early days, your mind might just buckle under the pressure of awesomeness.
10. So He Won’t Break (Attack & Release)- An absolutely gorgeous song, in the most endearing way of that word. Dan howls in absolute shrieking heartbreak, and the staccato drum pounds are necessary shocks to the system so you aren’t sucked up into the syrupy harmony. It is a blissful ballad of epicly sad proportions.
9. When The Lights Go Out (Rubber Factory)- Bluesy as fuck, just solid riffing bouncing around the inner walls of your head. Flavours of flair and uptempo shots of adrenaline pump throughout the vocal, and the guitar absolutely blasts in triumphant bursts. The song sounds really redneck, as though being sung through the middle of a harmonica, but it nonetheless captures a whole lot of energy.
8. 10AM Automatic (Rubber Factory)- A simply smooth, dripping jazz infused rock song. It takes a completely new direction from the hardcore riff busting songs beforehand in the album. It’s very loving, very questioning and very poetic, albeit in a more simple way. It’s like the common mans, down to earth alternative to Morissey.
7. Modern Times (Magic Potion)- The song is simply explosive. It opens with a distant wail, then smashes down from the precipice with a cool riff, so cool it should come with it’s own leather jacket and Aviator sunglasses. It’s simply vicious and snarling, like a Pitbull (not the singer). It’s just dark and majestical and makes for a fantastic song simply because of it’s swagger.
6. Midnight In Her Eyes (Thickfreakness)- Delicate but solid finger plucking excellence opens this happy, stroking tune. It continues with reasonable stocky ambitions, gently sweeping past expectations and floating on a breathe of drawn out and elongated notes and crashing cymbals, coupled with considerable warbled out vocals.
5. I Got Mine (Attack & Release)- This song is totally balls to the wall, and carries a magicians hat at all times atop it’s head, always shrouded in a mysterious myst and confusion. The song could be possessed for all we know, with the fuzzed out guitars and the swiping chord riffs.
4. Set You Free (Thickfreakness)- A classic kind of Black Keys song. It’s stands tall, is pretty simple, basic to a point, and just wallows in itself like a pig in mud. Really well arranged as well, musically, because it chugs, then it pulls back, then it races out front again, and incidentally pulled back. It’s got a real grimacing solo at the end, that really adds that needed extra oomf to make it that bit better.
3. She’s Long Gone (Brothers)- Winding would be the best adjective to describe this song, as it coils and uncoils a dangerous, almost Middle Eastern melody. The chorus is enchanted and whispers a haunting wash over the wistful, howling vocals. It’s a pretty seductive song at heart, and incredibly forward and wicked on the surface.
2. Thickfreakness (Thickfreakness)- As the title track of the album, Thickfreakness perfectly capture all the big elements of structure on this seminal Black Keys album. Opening with a swamp like, stomping riff that grooved and jammed all over a Southern dance floor, mopping up everything in it’s path, we are then welcomed to a very, very bluesy riff and cry from Dan Auberach. It’s very country but also very rock at the same time. I can’t decide whether it should be played in an arena or a barn.
1. I’ll Be Your Man (The Big Come Up)- One of the Black Keys first songs, and their finest, in my opinion. It opens very direct then winds down to a quiet and soft blanket of fuzzed riff based blues. The lyrics are really fantastic, and very pictorial of the love portrayed in the song. It’s probably the most heterosexual song about caring ever written a.k.a it’s very manly, so even the tough guys can love this song. It caters to everyone, and thats why its the best Black Keys song, and it provides a simply awesome side to The Black Keys that they honed for the rest of their careers.