by Christine Leonard
The Black Keys –
[Easy Eye Sound / Nonesuch Records ]
It’s been a hot minute since we last heard from The Black Keys, but their heavy blues rock refrain remains the same. Reunited with his better half and percussionist Patrick Carney, vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach demonstrates that getting back in their brotherly Rubber Belt groove was as easy as falling off a tandem bicycle.
Recorded from scratch at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studios in Nashville, Let’s Rock reportedly came together with very little preparation or premeditation. Edging away from the disco ball and asphalt sizzle of 2011’s El Camino and the polished tones of 2014’s Turn Blue, the stripped-down nostalgia of Let’s Rock offers heartfelt tribute to the ultimate tool of the trade – the electric guitar. Irresistibly retro, yet tuned to a modern frequency, the album is already commanding the airwaves thanks to catchy-as-hell and radio-ready singles like “Lo/Hi,” “Eagle Birds” and “Go.” These three Cowtown-meets-Motown forerunners preface an album stacked with glossy, voluptuous ditties that bump ‘n’ grind like a preacher’s daughter.
Thumping bass notes and gliding vocals add sleek lines to “Shine a Light,” padded out by lux backups from guest vocalists Leisa Hans and Ashley Wilcoxson. Lonely forest mating ritual “Eagle Birds” gets down and dirty, while the stomping Austin gospel of “Lo/Hi” hits the album’s two sweetest spots – earnest storytelling and an unrelenting boogie beat that drives the drama towards satisfaction.
At peace with the past, the sugarcoated dirge “Walk on Water” echoes Auerbach’s time as “king of a one-horse town,” but you know you’re being lured in for the big come up when “Tell Me Lies” struts into Karmatown.
Yep, The Black Keys have returned to form nicely, which is most fortunate because we’ve been waiting.