The Full Picture: The Black Keys

Probably the most necessary of the Full Picture articles that I’ve written so far, what’s becoming a forgotten history for The Black Keys is that they were a very significant act earlier in their careerĀ as part of the blues-rock music scene. The band’s always been a duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, and this article is going to try and look at their rise to national prominence and point out just how their sound evolved to allow that to happen. This whole process starts back in 2002 when they released their debut album namedĀ The Big Come Up

The Black Keys- The Big Come Up (2002)
The Black Keys- The Big Come Up (2002)

The debut might surprise you if you’ve never heard it before in how raw the sound is, but it gives you a good idea about the roots of the band. The style is straight-forward for the listener, which is more the result of a two-person band than anything else, and it has a strong blues-rock feel to it for sure. That’s to say that while the guitar doesn’t have an overly-complicated role in the song it’s still got a prominent role on every track, and the songs themselves don’t get overly focused on choruses. Tracks progress naturally to tell a story, and that’s something which defines the early Black Keys tracks very well. There’s more attention placed on the instruments than the later work which is a nice change up for listening to them, but they also improved a lot after this album so other earlier works end up defining the band better. They’re cover of “She Said, She Said” is fantastic though.

Track Picks: “She Said, She Said“, “I’ll Be Your Man“, “Brooklyn Bound

The Black Keys- Thickfreakness (2003)
The Black Keys- Thickfreakness (2003)

A terrific album from the group which meant a lot for them getting attention as a premiere Blues-rock group and showed that the sound on The Big Come Up wasn’t a band which struck gold once. Auerbach’s vocals right from the start of the title track are nearly indiscernible in a classic blues-rock sense, and the band’s guitar dominated style seemed to benefit a lot from the band’s label switch to Fat Possum Records. The Black Keys were a young band that was playing energetic-guitar music and had a cool-vibe attached to them which was hard to argue against, and began to grow a good sized fan base because of this. Once again my favorite track on this album’s a cover as the group did a take on the classic Sonics song (and originally Richard Berry) “Have Love, Will Travel” and knocked it out of the park in the process.

Track Picks: “Have Love, Will Travel“, “Set You Free“, “Hurt Like Mine

The Black Keys- Rubber Factory (2004)
The Black Keys- Rubber Factory (2004)

Rubber Factory gets it’s title because it marks a change in the recording environment, as the band shifted out of Patrick Carney’s basement and into an old abandoned rubber factory for the sessions. When you read that you’d expect a larger change in sound then what actually translates to the album though, as the different acoustics and stylistic approach don’t seem to make to much of an indent on the actual recorded sound surprisingly. A good album which marks the first time the group ever charted, but probably best to re-visit for singles more than the whole product. Once again I’m a big fan of a cover song on this album in “Act Nice and Gentle” which was originally done by The Kinks, a huge stylistic difference but one that again ends up working beautifully well for the group, something that speaks volumes about their taste in music in my opinion. “The Lengths” deserves mention here too because it isn’t often mentioned as one of the group’s premiere songs, but I love their slower and sadder material and that track is one of the best examples I can give of why. The song is a really sentimental and emotional listen which is what the blues is supposed to be all about, and it’s a treat to listen to.

Top Tracks: “Act Nice and Gentle“, “The Lengths“, “All Hands Against His Own
Continue reading The Full Picture: The Black Keys

Song-A-Day: January 11

A struggle to find something overly-relevant for today, so instead we’ll take a step back to 35 years ago with this track by MeWithoutYou entitled “January 1979”

January 1979, saw a terrible crash
And I couldn’t help but laugh
My ear pressed against the past
Like a glass on a wall of a house in a photograph
My forehead no longer sweet
With holy kisses worthy of your fiery lips
I was floating in a peaceful sea
Rescued by a sinking ship

If I could become the servant of all
No lower place to fall
(I could be your servant)
If I could become the servant of all
No lower place to fall
(If I could be your servant)
If I could become the servant of all
No lower place to fall
(I could be your servant)
If I could become the servant of all
No lower place to fall
(If I could be your servant)

You watch me like a ten car highway wreck
With detached, vulgar curiosity
Us looking down on the tops of the hats
Of us passersby from your seventh floor balcony
And from such a height you missed
Creatures too small for sight
Carry on covert conversation as the misguided insects
Crown me their grasshopper king with a dance of celebration

After years with their crown on my head
I’ve grown overfed, unconcerned and comfortably numb
Kept busy indulging in the pleasures of the wealthy
Oh, someone make me afraid of what I’ve become!
At the first sign of possible sorrow I’ll turn my heel and run
Oh, I’ll never learn
My life’s a cup of sugar I borrowed before
Time began and forgot to return

It was a matter of time
I always said I could see, but now I’m going blind
It was a matter of miserable time
But I heard somewhere, there was a cure for useless eyes