The Black Keys ninth studio album Let’s Rock comes five years after Turn Blue and four years after the extended hiatus that followed drummer Patrick Carney breaking and dislocating his shoulder. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this album – a lot of it created by The Black Keys themselves with exclusive fan videos and even their music clip for Go spreading rumours that they weren’t talking.
We already knew that at least three of the songs on the album lived up to the standards that we have come to love and expect from The Black Keys – Lo/Hi, Eagle Birds and Go – but how about the rest? Where would they sit in the ranks of their back catalogue?
Let’s Rock starts off with Shine A Light On Me – a song about dealing with loss. While you can feel the despair and heartbreak in the dark lyrics, the upbeat music turns the song around and is more a song about comforting those left behind. Singles Eagle Birds and Lo/Hi are next and as we already know, they’re great Black Keys songs. They slow things down again for Walk Across The Water – once again, the subject matter doesn’t match the music and while it makes you stop and think about what the song is about, it doesn’t detract from its simplicity and charm.
For this album, Carney and frontman Dan Auerbach walked into the studio without a plan and basically wrote the tracks the way they used to do – by jamming and doing what felt right. They wanted to go back to their roots. Tell Me Lies and Every Little Thing are perfect examples of this. They are both beautiful, stripped back songs that cry out to days gone by. Get Yourself Together is boppy and has a soulful groove about it – as the song says, “You wanna make it last forever” while spinning around the room dancing. Go is another fun, feel good song and the video clip they put out for it is just gold.
Throughout the album, The Black Keys enlisted the help of Leisa Hans and Ashley Wilcoxson as back up singers. Their voices add an extra dimension to the songs and give them that extra lift. It will be interesting to hear these songs live.
The album finishes with Under The Gun and Fire Walk With Me. Both songs are conflictingly sedate yet fast and make you want to get up and dance – especially Fire. Let’s Rock is a surprising album in its entirety. While you want to hear stronger, louder riffs from The Black Keys, the maturity and constraints they have used with these songs work perfectly.
It’s an album that needs more than one listen. The first time you might be questioning Carney and Auerbach; the second, third, fourth time you listen though, you start to understand where they are going with this record. They couldn’t do another Lonely Boy, Strange Times or Fever without sounding like they were just re-hashing old songs. They went into the studio with the idea to not overthink it and for us to do just that would do Let’s Rock an injustice.
So go get a glass of your favourite beverage, sit back and relax with the album on repeat. Let’s be glad that The Black Keys are back, and hope they announce a tour down under sooner rather than later.