These Blues Brothers Need a Joint

The Black Keys



It’s only been two years since blues-rock duo the Black Keys emerged with debut Attack and Release — but that short period has seen an exhausting list of releases, including a hip-hop collaboration album with heavyweights like RZA and Mos Def, not to mention solo albums from both members.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Brothers trades the energy of Attack for a more relaxed and immersive stoner vibe; there was only so long they could blaze such a fiery trail.

First single “Tighten Up” is the only track produced by Danger Mouse (one-half of both Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, and the producer of all Attack). It’s sleek and poppy: Every instrument carefully follows the melody, as echoed vocals and occasional keyboards are underlaid with the same ringtone-ready guitar riffs that defined their debut.

But the rest of Brothers is designed to suck us further in, with buzzing-kazoo guitars and keyboards that split from the core melody — forcing us to pick through distorted layers if we wish to understand the entire track.

Everything about the album is geared toward a holistic listening experience — even the way drummer Patrick Garney clicks away at the cymbals in “Sinister Kid” with Farmville intensity. It’s got the energy to immerse us, but won’t give us a reason to stand up and yell.

It’s a jarring change in character, though the Keys do politely pass on the opportunity to break out Floyd-esque intricacies that we’d need Bose headphones and Planet Earth on Blu-Ray to appreciate. But they end up lost somewhere in between, stripping away snappy riffs for muddy rhythms. Light up and lay back, ’cause Brothers will never bring you to the edge of your seat.