Attack & Release is a remarkably easy album to like.
Chris Jones 2008
Much like another release this month - the Raconteurs' Consolers Of The Lonely - the Black Keys have finally (partly) renounced their lo-fi roots. They've done this by both getting into a real studio and working with Brian 'Danger Mouse' Burton behind the desk. What emerges is their clearest statement of rockin' intent yet. Attack & Release (what is it with bands naming albums after the knobs on their stomp boxes?) is still brimming with slabs of riffage and Patrick Carney's drums that thrash like a drowning squid, but it also has a palette that's broader and, yes, more radio-friendly.
The album was originally put together as a project for the late Ike Turner. But with the r 'n' b legend's demise the band and producer decided to claim it all for themselves. And thank goodness they did. This is psychedelic psych blues that hits all the right '70s buttons. Free's back-to-basics wailing springs to mind, but often Dan Auerbach's approach can remind one of the Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac of the late '60s too (especially on So He Won't Break). Well, this IS blues rock after all...
In the Akron duo's wake we've seen a whole host of minimal blues rock minimalists hit the scene from The White Stripes (with whom they're most often compared) to Wolfmother, but none have the technique of Auerbach when it comes to guitar wrangling. With this in mind it's odd that the band saw fit to rope in Tom Waits alumni, Mark Ribot, to beef up a few tracks (Lies, So He Won't Break). To be honest, although Ribot's a master, his contributions are barely discernable from Auerbach's.
But no matter, Attack...is a splendid kick in the ears. Perhaps aware that the basic garage template is wearing a trifle thin, the band allow all kind of fab noise nonsense to invade the picture. I Got Mine even veers close to space rock in its final two minutes. They may be called the Black Keys in abeyance to their adherence to the awkward side of the blues, but Attack & Release is a remarkably easy album to like.