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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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The Black Keys encourage listeners to do just that on new album ‘Let’s Rock’

For almost two decades, the Akron, Ohio, based band The Black Keys has been delivering soulful blues-rock and psychedelic music.

Now on their ninth studio album, “Let’s Rock,” the band has churned out a batch of tunes that harkens back to the garage, soul and psychedelic elements that dominated their earlier albums. The larger-than-life sound is reminiscent of the acid-tinged blues music of 1960s with just enough of that classic rock sound that would make any of these songs worthy for use in a Ford or Viagra commercial.

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Perhaps the most notable feature of “Let’s Rock” is how the duo has done away with the ornate instrumentation that has been present in their last several studio albums and has stripped back to basics: guitar, drums and vocals. The band’s first single, “Lo-Hi,” is classic Black Keys with its soulful vintage attitude, groovy rhythms and aggressive attack. “Go” is a short and sunny tune that bounces around for just about two and a half minutes before fading out into the sitar-driven “Breaking Down.” “Sit Around And Miss You” seems to borrow from a lot of the humble qualities found in ‘60s folk-rock with a melody that’s a little too reminiscent of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You.” The album’s opener, “Shine A Little Light,” is a searing tune that harkens back to the “Brothers” era Black Keys with heavy, fuzzed-out leads and staccato verse rhythms. “Let’s Rock” ends with the funky “Fire Walk With Me,” perhaps a nod to the ‘90s television drama Twin Peaks, or another very safe, somewhat cryptic lyric that The Black Keys implement so well on this album.

The general tone upon listening to “Let’s Rock” is that it is a very safe album. All of the songs feel like they belong and it is relatively free of experimentation. “Let’s Rock” instead sees The Black Keys utilizing the elements that made them successful while still being authentic to their niche in music. Despite lacking the rawness and abrasion of earlier albums like “Thickfreakness” and “Rubber Factory,” it is still a unique album for a Billboard-topping band like The Black Keys in a time when the general atmosphere of the alternative rock music industry is more cookie-cutter than ever. With more bands like Greta Van Fleet copying elements from popular music from past decades and producing works that sound more like a dive bar cover band than a stadium act, The Black Keys’ sound is authentic and refreshing. It seems that within the context of The Black Keys’ discography, fans either favor the raw and bluesy sound of the pre-“Brothers” era or the polished and accessible post-“Brothers” era in the same way that fans of The Beatles lean toward one specific vibe of the band’s catalog.

Whichever fans choose, it’s still an inarguable fact that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are two of the most well-respected names in music. As a result of the band’s experience and maturity, “Let’s Rock” is an album that seems to serve both masters and shows the band going back to basics while looking ahead to their future.

The Black Keys, Let’s Rock: 6.5/10

Favorite songs: “Go,” “Shine A Little Light,” “Under The Gun,” “Lo/Hi”

Least favorite songs: “Sit Around And Miss You”

Matt Campbell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @mcampnh. 

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