The Black Keys

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Like many rock & roll albums, Attack & Release can trace its roots to an Ike Turner record. In this case, however, it’s a record that never came to be: a late-career comeback that Danger Mouse was developing with Sir Ike before the R&B kingpin passed away last year. Danger Mouse had solicited the scruffy Akron, Ohio, blues-rock duo to write songs for the album—an intriguing prospect, if not as spot-on a choice as, say, Amy Winehouse. Or Ike Turner. Regardless, the fruits of these labors now materialize on the Black Keys’ fifth full-length, produced by Danger Mouse.

For all the untidiness inherent to their music, there is a strong anality to the Black Keys. Album after album, they tenaciously stick to the blueprint from which the band sprang, with Dan Auerbach’s blue-collared wail and gnarled guitar joined by little more than Patrick Carney’s drums. Attack & Release slightly deviates from these primitivist parameters, with instrumental contributions by Marc Ribot and Ralph Carney (a Tom Waits sideman, as well as Patrick’s uncle), plus submerged keyboards from the producer. Though he coaxed these home-recorders into a real studio, Danger Mouse mostly leaves the band unmolested. Among the current rank of megawatt producers, he alone practices such restraint and refuses to overshadow his bands with cute trademarks. The subsequent LP is sound yet timid: solid modern indie rock that holds no candle to Ike Turner.

—Jay Ruttenberg

The Black Keys play Terminal 5 May 15, 2008.

Attack & Release (Nonesuch)