I've been on The Black Keys bandwagon since 2003 or 2004, and I feel confident saying that the boys from Akron have just put out their best or second-best album. The name of this album is Brothers (brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department).
In a departure from Attack and Release, TBK only let Danger Mouse produce one track ("Tighten Up"). It's a great track -- and you can hear Danger Mouse's influences after the bridge -- but TBK retreated a bit to their roots (compared to A&R), rather appropriately so considering they recorded some of the songs at legendary Muscle Shoals studio, while also keeping some of the keyboard influences. What emerges is a fantastic album -- not only their most critically acclaimed album, but also their highest selling album. After a bit of a lull (2006's Magic Potion was the weakest link in their discography), the boys are back in town.
Brothers rocks. Metaphorically, of course, but also in a close-your-eyes-and-make-the-devil-horns-with-your-hands-and-headbang sort of way. Even more, Brothers rocks live (trust me, I'm [almost] a doctor ... and yes, I know that track isn't from the album, but it's the only Youtube video with decent sound from the show I caught). This is face-melting stuff here. And clocking in at 16 tracks -- if you include bonus track "Ohio" -- it's a rollicking good time.
Dan and Patrick also offer up a few slower tracks, perhaps the best of their career (excluding Chulahoma -- I love that artwork!). "Everlasting Light," "Unknown Brother," and "Never Gonna Give You Up" are all slow songs that don't slow down the album (perhaps the key to a successful rock album that eases off the pedal from time to time).
Lyrically, Brothers won't stack up to Sufjan or Andrew Bird ... but since when has bluesy-roots rock ever gone highbrow? Historically speaking, the lyricism has been simple (it seems like Blind Lemon Jefferson included the word "blues" in just about every song). I'm not going to fault TBK for not writing songs about the Apocalypse or using multi-syllabic words... I don't want to reach for my dictionary when I'm banging my head. Furthermore, there is nothing here to suggest that simple words can't be meaningful, especially when accompanied by great tunes. For example, "Next Girl" has become my anthem for the year (turn up the volume):
Blurb: I didn't hold the punchline: Brothers is just as good -- or almost nearly so -- to Rubber Factory.