Their signing to None-such would seem to raise the Black Keys' two-man blues grit to a higher art. Alongside the perfectionists and square-peg eggheads of jazz, classical, roots, rock and ethnic music, the music Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney make is suddenly supposed to be more than just something loud and howling enough to knock over the biggest beer can pyramid Akron, Ohio, ever saw. But wasn't it always that? For five years now they've been doing it, dredging Delta blues, mixing that with indie rock obscura and old Free records, then flattening it out onto I-80's median strip. Their songs can be high-beam bright here that's represented by gas pedal crunchers "Modern Times" and "Just Got to Be" but they can also be dark, harsh and terrifying, like a third-shift murder in the parking lot of a Shoney's. On Potion that sense swirls around the gloomy opening notes of "The Flame," as well as on "Strange Desire," with its gloomy, uneasily lingering guitar solo and lyrics pulled from the wronged-man handbook. "I don't wanna go to hell/But if I do/It'll be because of you." The songwriting is sharpened to a knifepoint; Auerbach's moan is correct; and the playing is steady and wildly creative without ever being showy. This really is the Midwestern experience rendered in high art, but we knew that already, didn't we?
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].