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Black Keys - The Big Come Up LP
As minimal two-man blues-rock bands go, this has to be near the top of the heap. The problem with minimal two-man blues-rock outfits (and there have been more of them than you think) is that they're, well, usually too minimal, with thin garage sound and a shortage of variety. The Black Keys' sound, impressively, is not too thin (though it is garage-ish), and there's enough deft incorporation of funk, soul, and hard rock into the harsh juke joint-ish core to avoid monotony. Most importantly, Dan Auerbach has a genuinely fine, powerful blues voice, sometimes approximating a white, slightly smoother Howlin' Wolf (particularly on the opener, "Busted"). Auerbach's a good guitarist, too, conjuring suitably harsh and busy (and sometimes heavily reverbed) riffs out of what sounds like a cheap but effectively harsh amp. Patrick Carney's drums might be the cruder component of this two-man band, but they keep the sound earthy without sounding sloppily punkish for the hell of it, as too many such groups searching for the blues-punk fusion do. The very occasional insertion of hip-hop snippets seems neither here nor there, and the cover of the Beatles' "She Said, She Said" seems like an odd choice. But overall it's quite cool raunchy electric blues with more vigor and imagination than similarly raw, elderly Southern juke joint artists who came into vogue starting in the 1990s. And it's way fresher than the standard bar band blues-rockers with slicker execution and more reverence for blues clichés.