When the Black Keys coughed up their debut album, The big come-upexactly 20 years ago this week, the smart money certainly wasn’t on them being the slow and steady winners of the rattling garage-rock race of the early 2000s. Released on specialist psych/punk label Alive Records , The big come-up featured a camera-shy duo who wanted nothing to do with the thrift-chic chic of the Strokes, the theatrical myth-making of the White Stripes or the hammy showmanship of the Hives. Compared to their younger, more photogenic peers filling the pages of SPIN and NMEsinger/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney already looked like grizzled old men content to spend their evenings bashing Muddy Waters standards and de-psychedelic Beatles covers in their basement, with no ambition other than to recreate the sound of a crackling AM radio wedged between two train stations.
However, as those aforementioned acts succumbed to prolonged hiatuses, breakups, or failed collaborations with Pharrell, the Black Keys’ proverbial heist-beater was gradually transformed into a muscle car worthy of a car show, with water wheels and neon lights under the siding. With the double-shot Grammy-scooping wham-bam of the 2010s Brothers and 2011 The path, the Keys completely rewired the sound of modern rock radio over the next decade, uniting wayward factions of 78 traditionalist blues collectors, frat boys, neosoul aficionados, Southern rock diehards, of aging hipsters and their teenagers buying their first guitars. Now, having exhausted all the pieces of the post-success playbook – the detour to cinematic psychedelia, the reactionary return to FM radio fundamentals, the covers album to their roots – the Black Keys have finally hit the marker. ultimate classic rock sanctity: the luxury of indulging in middle age, coupled with the offhand assurance that arenas and amphitheaters will always be packed, no matter what they produce.
Fittingly, the band’s 11th album comes at roughly the same point in the Keys’ career as the Stones did in the mid-’80s, when Mick and Keith became less concerned with chasing the zeitgeist and settled for do what comes naturally. abandonment boogie may share its name with a classic Beefheart cut, but the good captain’s corrupting influence doesn’t extend beyond the record’s spine – the Keys’ first album of originals since 2019 “Let’s Dance” could easily have been titled “Let’s go ride.” After recruiting members of Junior Kimbrough’s and RL Burnside’s backing bands for last year’s Mississippi-blues retreat Delta Kreamthe Keys passed on this spirit of collaboration to abandonment boogie, opening up their creative process to a team of guest songwriters for the first time. Certainly, the Black Keys are among the few bands on the planet with both the star power and the underground pedigree to correlate lifelong garage-punk Greg Cartwright (Oblivians, Reigning Sound), Nashville hitmaker Angelo Petraglia ( Trisha Yearwood, Taylor Swift, Kings of Leon) and ZZ Top legend Billy Gibbons on their record. However, in this case, a few drops of new blood here and there can’t stop the Keys from returning to a lot of the same old same old.