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INDIE ROCK

The Keys get bigger and even better

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April 8, 2008

The Black Keys

Attack & Release (Nonesuch)

ESSENTIAL "Strange Times"

"Just the same old thing," howls Daniel Auerbach midway through the Black Keys' "Attack & Release," but the band's latest is anything but. After four self-produced albums, the Ohio-based duo enlists Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse to infuse their guitar-and-drums minimalism with a fuller roots-rock feel, and the results are fresh, intriguing, and often inspiring. With influences ranging from stoner metal ("Strange Times") to '70s soul ("Lies"), the group experiments with banjos, pianos, and flutes, concisely and purposefully diversifying its sound without skimping on meaty, muscular riffs. Patrick Carney remains unconditionally rambunctious behind the drums, propelling tunes like "Strange Times" with a chugging consistency. Tossed in among the mid-tempo grooves are straight-ahead rockers like "Remember When (Side B)" and "I Got Mine," all snarl and swagger, and delivered with an off-kilter tension reminiscent of the early Keys' two-dudes-in-a-basement sensibility. "Attack & Release" proves that cleaning up the boys still won't stop them from tracking mud all over the house. [Adam Conner-Simons]

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