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The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie Music Album Reviews

The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie Music Album Reviews
Even with the help of outside songwriters and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, the blues-rock duo can’t help reverting to the same old same old.

When the Black Keys coughed up their debut album, The Big Come Up, exactly 20 years ago this week, the smart money definitely wasn’t on them being the slow-and-steady victors of the early 2000s garage-rock rat race. Released on psych/punk speciality label Alive Records, The Big Come Up presented a camera-shy duo that wanted nothing to do with the thrift-store chic of the Strokes, the theatrical myth-making of the White Stripes, or the hammy showmanship of the Hives. Compared to their youthful, more photogenic peers filling up the pages of SPIN and NME, singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney already sounded like grizzled old men content to spend their evenings bashing away on Muddy Waters standards and de-psychedelized Beatles covers in their basement, with no ambitions beyond recreating the sound of a crackly AM radio stuck between two stations.

However, while those aforementioned acts succumbed to prolonged hiatuses, break-ups, or failed Pharrell collaborations, the Black Keys’ proverbial junkyard beater was gradually tricked out into an auto-show-worthy muscle car, complete with hydraulic wheels and neon under siding. With the wham-bam Grammy-scooping double shot of 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino, the Keys thoroughly rewired the sound of modern rock radio over the next decade, uniting wayward factions of 78-collecting blues traditionalists, frat boys, neosoul lovers, Southern rock die-hards, aging hipsters, and their teenage kids purchasing their first guitars. Now, after exhausting every play in the post-success playbook—the detour into cinematic psychedelia, the reactionary return to FM radio fundamentals, the covers album hat-tip to their roots—the Black Keys have finally achieved the ultimate marker of classic-rock sainthood: the luxury of coasting into middle age, coupled with the casual assurance that the arenas and amphitheaters will still be packed no matter what they put out.

Fittingly, the band’s 11th album arrives roughly at the same point in the Keys’ career as the Stones were at in the mid-’80s, when Mick and Keith became less concerned with chasing the zeitgeist and just settled into doing what comes naturally. Dropout Boogie may share its name with a classic Beefheart cut, but the good Captain’s corrupting influence doesn’t extend past the record spine—the Keys’ first album of originals since 2019’s “Let’s Rock” could’ve easily been titled “Let’s Roll.” After recruiting members of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside’s backing bands for last year’s Mississippi-blues retreat Delta Kream, the Keys carried that collaborative spirit over to Dropout 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 the both the star power and underground pedigree to corral garage-punk lifer Greg Cartwright (Oblivians, Reigning Sound), Nashville hitmaker Angelo Petraglia (Trisha Yearwood, Taylor Swift, Kings of Leon), and ZZ Top legend Billy Gibbons onto their record. However, in this case, a few drops of new blood here and there can’t keep the Keys from reverting to a lot of the same old same old.

The opening track, “Wild Child,” was apparently kicking around for years until writing contributions from both Cartwright and Petraglia brought it to the finish line. But, despite its tantalizing disco intro, the song simply ticks off all the boxes for a boilerplate Black Keys radio single, with a main guitar riff caked in enough studio-sculpted fuzz to sound like a horn section; a huge shout-it-out hook that’ll give the band’s lighting tech ample opportunity to cue the crowd for a singalong; and lusty lyrics that find Auerbach once again pining for some vaguely sketched unattainable girl. (Only in this case, the sense of familiarity is compounded by the fact the big chorus sounds like someone dialed up the Troggs’ “Wild Thing” at karaoke but were too drunk to remember the words and had to adlib their own.) A similar sense of going-through-the-motions afflicts “Burn the Damn Thing Down,” which runs a distant second in this band’s recent attempts to hotwire T. Rex’s “Jeepster,” while cribbing its city-razing, road-warrior manifesto from Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band.” But even those lifts seem subtle next to “Baby I’m Coming Home,” where the Keys bank on the faint hope that the majority of their fanbase has never heard the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider.”

Such par-for-the-course riff-nicking would be more forgivable if the Keys had anything new to say on top of it, but, co-writers or none, Dropout Boogie rarely strays from Auerbach’s wheelhouse of women who have done him wrong and/or who have got to do him right, and he doesn’t bring the heat where it’s most needed. The centerpiece ballad, “How Long,” mines the same ’60s-soul elegance and baby-come-back pleading as Brothers’ definitive cover of Jerry Buttler’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” but it can’t muster any of the latter’s down-on-my-knees desperation. Auerbach fares much better when the topic shifts from broken hearts to empty wallets: On “For the Love of Money”—a spirited hill-country blues that effectively licks the Delta Kream spoon clean—he uses his secret-weapon falsetto to convey economic anxiety, savvily updating the blues’ age-old themes of impoverishment and sell-yer-soul temptation for our current late-capitalist nightmare. Then again, as Dropout Boogie proves, the easiest way to allay such fears is to build your own money-printing machine: Honoring the Keys’ reputation as a TV-sync powerhouse, “Your Team Is Looking Good” repurposes an old cheerleader taunt into a gently choogling chant that all but guarantees its placement on NFL Sunday pregame shows in perpetuity.

But for all the audio upgrades and commercial fortunes they’ve reaped over the past two decades, the Black Keys can still resemble the same dudes from Akron who found their calling 20 years ago by tuning out the world and getting lost in their own greasy groove. Only now, they don’t have to settle for merely conjuring the spirit of their blues-rock idols—they can actually invite them to their studio. You need not read the liner notes to recognize Billy Gibbons’ presence on the seedy Degüello-worthy jam “Good Love,” and though he doesn’t stick around for the closing “Didn’t I Love You,” his Texan mojo still hangs thick in the air, as Auerbach and Carney lock into a steady dirt-road rhythm that feels like it could go on way longer than its four-minute runtime. They’re the sort of tunes that the Keys can pull off with ease, as satisfying as a perfectly tossed curveball landing in a beaten-up catcher’s mitt. But they also make you wish the Keys didn't spend the rest of Dropout Boogie lobbing underhand pitches right down the middle of the plate.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie Music Album Reviews The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, May 20, 2022 Rating: 5

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