"Take a big chunk of blues rock, throw it in a sack with some Cream-era Eric Clapton, a bit of Jimi Hendrix, a pinch of Stevie Ray Vaughn and a hint of Creedence. Shake vigorously, deep fry until extra-crunchy.
Akron, Ohio duo The Black Keys followed just this recipe for their minimalist debut album, with results that are nothing short of amazing.
Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach's fingers canter up and down blues scales with ease, and his fuzz dial is obviously set to "11". His sandpapery pipes sound as if he's guzzled whisky and puffed filterless Camels for far longer than his 20-some-odd years would allow. This guy has no business be able to sing like this.
Auerbach is perfectly complemented by Patrick Carney's enthusiastic pounding of the skins, which is never, ever relegated to just providing a background beat. As producer, Carney is also largely to thank for the Keys's distinctive gritty bootleg sound that sounds as if you're spinning a dusty 45 unearthed in the back of some record shop.
The pair come barreling out of the gate with the very first track, "Busted", an energetic number that immediately gives notice to listeners that this band is about scorching, unapologetic blues.
From there, they move into the down-and dirty "Do the Rump" and on to the slightly Creedence-ish "I'll Be Your Man." A few tracks later is another straight-up blues song, "Run Me Down", which leads into "Leavin' Trunk", an incredible song that sounds like it could have been an undiscovered Cream gem. Then it's into the ultra-fuzzed out "Heavy Soul". Their cover of The Beatles' "She Said She Said" is nothing short of amazing. It is the perfect cover -- reimagining a classic while remaining true to its heart and soul.
The album wraps up with "Brooklyn Bound", another masterful blues rock number that sounds like something you only hear on classic radio stations at like 2:00 a.m. Actually this is technically the second-to-last song, but the real last song, "240 Years Before Your Time" is just 4 minutes of slow, dreamy electric guitar noodling followed by 20 minutes of silence. I hate these kind of filler tracks, and thankfully it's a mistake the Keys didn't repeat in their next two albums.
There are several songs I didn't mention, but not because they are in any way bad. Indeed, there's not a shoddy number on the album (except the last pseudo-song"). You definitely get your money's worth with these tunes. The Black Keys are definitely one of the most significant recent music finds for this die-hard blues and classic rock fan. I thought they didn't make music like this any more. I'm glad I was wrong."
An Assuredly Brilliant Debut, keeping the blues spirit alive
fetish_2000 | U.K. | 04/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Black keys are a two piece outfit that not only take inspiration from Blues artists such as `R.L Burnside', `Howlin Wolf', and the rock stylisation of `Hendrix' & a little bit of funk, they've created a deceptively powerful album that deserves a truly wider audience. Dan Auerbach (guitar) is something of a revelation, coaxing huge bursts of Southern Blues Guitar groove that takes in elements of Funk, soul and more importantly Garage-rock, but undoubtedly it's mainstay is tightly woven blues that remain authentic, but by having a handle on these other genres (Funk, Soul...etc) they avoid repetition and Blues clichés, and stand out as individual artists in their own right. If you liked the `White Stripes' (yes, I know virtually every reviewer here has mentioned them), then think of this a grittier, more authentic integration of Blues into their two piece sound, and thus maybe not as immediate accessible as the White Stripes. If anything it's in some ways closer to "The John Spencer Blues Explosion's" more groove laden moments. But either way this is a superbly executed album that feels way more competent than any short sighted `White Stripes' comparisons, and if you like your Blues passionate, Energetic, Fiery, Smart and above all organic, the Black Keys have delivered an album that's going to be hard to beat."
Your Listening To The Big Come Up
Jack Souls | Littleton, CO USA | 09/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Big Come Up is it. The Keys' first LP, and some say their best. They combine garage rock and hardcore blues for a sound that just resonates with ache. With absolutely no image, the Black Keys, obviously not doing it for the money, just play all of themselves into the music that we hear, and there isn't one single song on this album that doesn't show it. Words can't even describe the feeling that goes over me when I hear this music. I fall into another dimension, float away from my suburban youth self, and fall into bluesy-rock. I had this album in my CD player for more than a month and couldn't stop listening to it. (I bought several albums that month that didn't recieve very much playtime.) The Keys just have this effect on you. This is a must have for anyone who listens to... well, music. If you don't own it already, I would probably give you the money right out of my wallet so you could buy it. It's just that good. (And try to get any other rock duos out of your head. The Black Keys have absolutely nothing to do with them. They don't look like them. They don't sound like them. Why? Because they are The Black Keys.)"
Won't leave CD player
Cassie Winters | New York City, NY USA | 07/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ok seriously folks, friends of mine turned me onto this stuff and this CD (The Big Come Up) is the greatest thing I've heard yet! I can't tell you what an unbelievable mix of blues/garage rock it is, even if you're not totally into that genre-I promise you WILL NOT be disappointed. This never leaves my cd player and my friends all play this at their parties (at NYU). The guitar and drumming beats are so raw and rough which is fantastic and is a great and perfect complement to Dan's smooth strong voice. Play this cd from beginning to end and you'll swear by it. The song "I'll Be Your Man" has Dan swooning you over making you believe he is singing right to you, but fret not you rockers because "The Breaks" will move you and groove you. These two hip guys know how to do things right and I can't wait for them to come to NYC!! Hear they are awesome live and I'm sure it helps that they are as attractive as they are talented! I say goodbye to MTV ... and hello to The Black Keys!"