THE BLACK KEYS: Attack And Release [Nonesuch]

Ah, the Black Keys. The poor man’s White Stripes, if you will. A cruel, lazy, hackneyed comparison that’s well past its sell-by date? Perhaps, but it’s a conclusion that’s difficult to escape. Almost six years after their debut, the Keys are resolutely sticking to the template laid down by their Detroit cousins: a raw, back-to-basics approach to gutbucket blues and big, bludgeoning, howling riffage that owes an obvious and extremely heavy debt to early Led Zeppelin. Which is all well and good to an extent, and there’s no question that singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are proficient purveyors of heavy-duty, greased-up garage blues with a ridiculous amount of swagger. Plus, they recorded 2004’s “10 A.M. Automatic,” which remains one of the most insanely wondrous slices of sub-Hendrix skullfuckery ever recorded. Oh, and Auerbach sounds increasingly like a young Paul Rodgers in his Bad Company prime. (No, that isn’t meant as an ironic insult.) The trouble is, it all seems just a little too, well, two-dimensional. Despite the eyebrow-raising choice of Danger Mouse as producer, there’s precious little invention at work on Attack And Release, and the stench of authenticity hangs heavy. Whereas Led Zeppelin and, yes, the White Stripes moved on to experiment and fuck around a little, the Keys seem all too happy to plough the same comfortable furrow. The law of diminishing returns looms larger than ever. []

—Neil Ferguson