The Black Keys are a blues rock duo and “Brothers” marked their sixth full length album. “Brothers” also marked the band’s explosion into the mainstream with singles like “Tighten Up” and “Howlin’ for You” becoming wildly popular. The album would also be more of a departure from the thick bluesy sound that covered The Black Keys’ earlier records. Instead, on the band incorporated more instruments as well as a smoother edge. And let’s face it, the sounds and songs on “Brothers” definitely upped the band’s sex appeal and made them approachable to a much wider audience. But in all honesty, I think it worked.
Now, I really enjoy The Black Keys’ earlier albums, namely “Magic Potion”, “Rubber Factory”, and their covers EP “Chulahoma”, but “Brothers” was my introduction to the band. The Black Keys definitely have some rocking songs on this album and some of their greatest and most badass moments come from songs like “Tighten Up”, “Howlin’ for You”, and “Next Girl”. There’s an addictive energy to the band when they are going at it on songs like this, from Dan Auerbach’s shouted vocals to Patrick Carney’s drumming, which sounds like it’s just about to get off the beat but never quite does.
While the blues rock is phenomenal as always (if a little dressed up) The Black Keys also shine on the slower songs, too. “Everlasting Light” is a beautiful and sweet track with female backup vocals that match perfectly with the duo’s performance. “The Only One” is an extremely romantic love song that to this day is one of my favorite tracks The Black Keys have ever released. Another highlight is “Unknown Brother”, which has a great ascending and descending guitar riff and a very catchy chorus. All of the songs I have pointed out are heavy on the melodies, which I think was a change in the band’s favor.
What keeps “Brothers” from being a truly amazing album in my opinion, is that it’s bloated. There are a number of songs that are underdeveloped with nothing exciting to speak of and I think had they been cut, the album would have improved drastically. Now when I listen to the album, I have to make do with skipping these duds on my own. Nevertheless, the change in formula that was present in “Brothers” was mighty effective and blasted them into the stratosphere of rock fame.
But whether this formula would continue to work for the band, well, that’s a discussion for another time…