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May 12, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Album Review: The Black Keys – Attack and Release

Attack and Release, the fifth full length from Ohio minimalist blues duo The Black Keys, is an accomplished, well-crafted slice of fantastic blues-tinged rock. It ticks all the boxes – caustic guitar riffs, stomping drums, and moody flourishes of organ overlaid with Dan Auberbach’s deeply affecting vocal delivery. The songs are great, too – well-rounded rock arrangements that sweep the listener along nicely. But there’s a slight problem – another certain minimalist blues rock duo has the market cornered. Although this particular blend of blues stomp and rock swagger does possess certain unique features, a great deal of the songs here just sound like Meg finally learned how to drum.

Don’t let this stop you, though, because Attack and Release is an album of too fine a calibre to ignore simply because of a few stark Stripes similarities. Opener ‘All You Ever Wanted’ gives early evidence of the album’s brilliance – a majestic, contemplative melody sails along beautifully, only to drop straight into a crashing organ refrain that is truly disorientating in only the nicest of ways.

Next up, things get messy – ‘I Got Mine’ (undoubtedly the most Stripes song on the album) is a filthy blues jam that cuts swathes of volume around subtle organ touches and a persistent drum beat. The core riff here will have you reaching for your guitar to try and nut it out for yourself, believe me.

Elsewhere, the Keys get sinister. Standout track ‘Psychotic Girl’ layers paranoid vocal harmonies over a snide, slippery guitar melody, creating a fantastic sense of tension. Producer Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) lets his presence be wellknown here, with crisp, taut production that allows just the right level of hazy noise to saturate the mix.

The two ‘Remember When’ tracks (labelled ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’) perfectly showcase the two sides to the Keys on Attack and Release; ‘Side A’ is a more laid-back affair, making use of quieter dynamics and, yes, even a drum machine, whereas ‘Side B’ grounds itself in a rock riff too loud and blunt to be ignored.

If minimalist blues rock is your thing, then Attack and Release will no doubt satisfy and intrigue you – there are enough interesting and unique features of this album to keep things fresh and rid your mind of that nagging feeling that you’ve heard this somewhere before. Hell, chances are you probably have. That aside, The Black Keys still know how to crank the volume and channel their love for the blues into a dense, moody rock album. Don’t miss the chance to catch them live at the Front Room on Friday 27 June.

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