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'Let's Rock' review: The Black Keys return to the basics

The Black Keys' "Let's Rock" on Easy Eye

The Black Keys' "Let's Rock" on Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records. Credit: Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records

BLACK KEYS

Let’s Rock

BOTTOM LINE After five years apart, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney reunite for a loving tribute to guitar-fueled album rock.

For their first album in five years, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney went back to basics.

There are no keyboards on “Let’s Rock” (Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch). There are no outside producers — no Danger Mouse, who has been involved in the duo’s past three albums, including breakout hits like “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy.” It is a return to the Akron natives’ early days, when their songs were just Auerbach’s voice and guitar teamed with Carney’s drums.

But “Let’s Rock” — named for the final words of convicted murderer Edmund Zagorski before he died in the electric chair in Tennessee last year, which also explains the album cover — also marks the growth The Black Keys have had as musicians, songwriters and producers. They skillfully take on numerous rock styles, making the move from “Rumours”-era Fleetwood Mac on “Get Yourself Together” to “All Things Must Pass”-era George Harrison on “Sit Around and Miss You” seem effortless.

That is not to say that The Black Keys are somehow stuck in the past. Though some inspirations are clearer than others, all of it is incorporated into their current sound, which seems more distinctive than ever, as most major rock bands currently bring hip-hop and EDM elements into their songs.

Maybe that’s why rock radio (and rock fans) have all lined up to welcome The Black Keys back. The album’s first single, the swaggering rocker “Lo/Hi,” set an impressive chart record in Billboard, becoming the first song to reach No. 1 on the alternative, mainstream rock, adult alternative and rock airplay charts simultaneously. On “Eagle Birds,” The Black Keys get their ZZ Top-ish Texas Boogie on, while the gorgeous, slow-building “Walk Across the Water” seems set to become their latest arena-rock anthem.

“Let’s Rock” proves itself to be a welcome invitation to what we’ve been missing while The Black Keys were away.

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