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2003 sophomore album from the acclaimed Alt-Rock/Blues duo.
Akron, Ohio's Black Keys offer crunchy, riff-heavy blues-rock that is remarkably rich and textured, particularly when one considers that they are merely a duo. Continuing in the vein of their 2002 debut, The Big Come Up, this sophomore CD leavens their garage blues with enough innovation to keep things interesting, taking full advantage of Dan Auerbachs full-throated growl. Particularly appealing are "Hard Row," which lurks somewhere between Cream and punk rock, the strong stomp of "Everywhere I Go," and the irresistible guitar riff that graces "If You See Me." The Black Keys might be covering familiar territory, but they do it so well--and with so much invention--that one is inclined to yield it to them and see what they do with it. --Genevieve Williams
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Guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney kick this one off with the heavy and ultra-fuzzy "Thickfreakness", the go to "Hard Row", a solid blues-rock number that again has echoes of Cream-era Eric Clapton.
Things don't really pick up until the fourth track, "Midnight", with its catchy guitar riff and smoky vocals. Next up is "Have Love Will Travel", another great old school blues number with a passionate chorus by Auerbach backed up with Carney's rapid-fire drumming. That's followed up by "Hurt Like Mine", which rounds out this triple-shot of hard-core blues numbers.
Next up is "Everywhere I Go", which, at 5:43, is easily the Keys' longest number. It's basically a nice, extended blues jam. It sounds like a bootleg of a performance in some hazy juke joint, and is testament to the ability of this pair to go beyond their usual bite-sized numbers. "No Trust", the next song, carries on with the juke joint feel, and its smooth stuttering riff and smartly-placed wah-wah would make it a sweet driving song.
"Hold Me In Your Arms" is likely the best track on the album. It starts off with a slow, measured blues riff, and then gathers speed as Auerbach kicks in with anguished vocals, adding some sweet slide along the way. Awesome song, easily one of their best.
The album ends with "I Cry Alone" pulling the listener back to that juke joint with an ultra-minimalist number marked by spartan cat burglar guitar plucking backed up by light cymbal-tapping and the occassional drum beat.
I briefly considered giving this album only three stars since I didn't feel it is as good as "The Big Come Up", which got four stars from me. But it's really an excellent album, just one with a different feel than their debut, which had several toe-tapping tracks that would not be out of place as radio singles. This is more of a mellow-out album that bears repeated listenings to fully appreciate.