Akron's the Black Keys have jumped labels again with Magic Potion. Beginning on their own Alive label, the band established itself internationally with Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory. They appear now with their Nonesuch debut -- they share a label with everyone from Pat Metheny and Sam Phillips to Toumani Diabaté and Stephin Merritt. Fans needn ...
Akron's the Black Keys have jumped labels again with Magic Potion. Beginning on their own Alive label, the band established itself internationally with Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory. They appear now with their Nonesuch debut -- they share a label with everyone from Pat Metheny and Sam Phillips to Toumani Diabaté and Stephin Merritt. Fans needn't worry that the Black Keys being on a label distributed by Warner has done anything to their sound. Magic Potion is gritty, raw, immediate and sludgy. It was recorded at the band's studios in Akron, and the only real difference is that they've become even better at what they do. Here are 11 tunes rooted in blues and riff-heavy rock, with only guitar and drums ripping through them like a loose power cable in a thunderstorm. Check out the wildly rockist riff that is at the heart of the album's opener "Just Got to Be," or the wily shambolic blues in "Your Touch." If anything, Magic Potion reminds the listener of the late great Red Devils King King except they have a deeper country, south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line feel to them, even on a ballad such as "You're the One," which feels like it's barely being held together by Dan Auerbach's voice, which unifies the guitar and Patrick Carney's drums. "Strange Desire" is an electric-acid-blues moan disguised as a ballad, whereas "Just a Little Heat" inverts the riff from Led Zeppelin's "Living Loving Maid " to offer a wide-open howl of distorted guitar and a slippery snare and cymbals crash. For those who feel that the blues have nothing to offer in the 21st century -- especially electric blues, which has spawned countless cookie-cutter, slick deceptions disguised as the real thing -- Magic Potion should satisfy deeply. Here is a future blues that comes right from the groin of history, reinterpreted through garage rock, alcohol, and rage: just check out "Modern Times." In the slow drawling burn, one can hear Junior Kimbrough's ghost possessing Auerbach. "Elevator" closes the set on a feedback-drenched, minimal Delta blues that has more to do with the cagey antics of Charley Patton and Lightnin' Hopkins -- and R.L. Burnside, too -- than with either the White Stripes or Ronnie Earl. This is vulgar music, completely unsentimental or nostalgic but with a deep, wild, and tenacious heart; it's spooky, un-caged, and frighteningly descriptive of our time and place. It's been a long time since the majors put out a record this savage. This is the door to the blues in 2006; hold on to your hips because they will begin to twitch. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi