After their longest break between albums yet, surpassing the two to three-year average (which is typical of The Black Keys) we have been presented with Let’s Rock, the 9th album in The Black Keys’ discography, but not their best. I am disappointed their hiatus didn’t return with a bang like The Raconteurs (if you recall my previous review.) This isn’t to say the album is a disappointment in general, the style is typical of The Black Keys, and they haven’t dug themselves into a musical hole so to speak- and it certainly is consistent. Sometimes it’s refreshing to hear a simple format and solid structure, a “can’t go wrong” type heard in Eagle Birds. This format is necessary for upcoming bands who have money to lose and fans to gain, but The Black Keys are already at this point, so they are comfortable to delve into the art of risk-taking. At this point, this is what we have come to expect.
And yet, I still find “Lo/Hi” rather fantastic. It’s engaging, chaotic, full-on and everything The Black Keys stands for. Dirty vocals and lo-fi filters contrasted with crystal-clear percussion bring the track alive, and I want more of it. I would rather have Low/Hi appear at the beginning, yet I can’t help but feel its placement was on purpose to retain some balance.
There are some classic tracks of course, and the style of their earlier work is evident, it is stripped down with a Kings of Leon small-scale venue sound. For their post-2010 fans- this is basically their sound pre-commercial breakthrough. That’s great for those wanting their rough yet schematic methodology, but regardless of their style, if the structure isn’t present then neither are the ratings. In fact, I would find this album comparable to everyday radio rock in the late 70’s, when the market became over-saturated and rock was less of an anomaly, and more of a money-making marketplace. The title “Let’s Rock” may be indicative of this, and thus the style.
Primarily based on a comparison from their most successful albums to this, there is a large drop in quality detected. This, most likely, is due to a certain Danger Mouse missing as their producer- who carried The Black Keys into stardom. While this album is an easy listen, I felt somewhat of a lack-luster, comparable to that of Cage the Elephant’s Social Cues, in which several singles struck a chord (if you’ll pardon the pun.) This album is lacking a certain “je ne sais quoi” which was what rose The Black Keys into becoming arguably the biggest U.S alt rock band of the noughties. I would compare it to “passable movies”, a genre created for one-time viewings and as a result there is a quality drop, yet maybe this is the downfall of the pressures from trying to live up to your predecessors. Regardless, thoughts on reverting back to the good old bluesy, care-free and effortless rhyming days are up to you.