Courtesy of Nonesuch Records Inc.

July 9, 2019

TEST SPIN | The Black Keys — ‘Let’s Rock’

Print More

In their first album since 2014, The Black Keys newest release, Let’s Rock, is the alternative rock album that this year needs. This album pays tributes to the basics of rock music with talented guitar solos and beats. Before releasing the full album, the duo released singles “Go,” “Eagle Birds” and “Lo/Hi.”

The upbeat and energetic vibe of “Go” reminds me of The Black Keys’ 2011 hit “Lonely Boy.” Not only is the dynamic similar, but you can actually sing the chorus of “Lonely Boy” over the instrumental section of “Go” and it fits nicely. While the two songs are different enough, I appreciate the tribute to one of the band’s biggest hits. Releasing this song first as a single reminded the audience of The Black Keys’ timeless music and got their audience excited for the full album, and put The Black Keys back on the map.

“Eagle Birds” was also smart to drop as a single because it showcases Dan Auerbach’s guitar skills  — demonstrating the band’s authenticity and talent. This song is on-brand for the band, as it’s all about finding love and hopefully not ending up lonely. Additionally, the bird motif, which is most obvious in the title of the song, was seen even earlier in the single “Lo/Hi” which referenced the good times in one’s life where you feel so high that you are “like a bird in the sky.”

The rest of the album has mostly an upbeat, alt-rock vibe — unlike Turn Blue which was much more retro and slow. This time around, The Black Keys wanted to give their fans something that they would absolutely enjoy, and they did so by sticking to what they know and going back to the basics.

The two songs that I would recommend from the twelve song album are “Tell Me Lies” and “Every Little Thing.” I really appreciate “Tell Me Lies” because the instrumentals are more diluted to put an emphasis on the skilled vocals, including the gospel singing that occurs about three-quarters of the way through the song. In this song, The Black Keys use the motif of a burning flame, which is carried through the rest of the album and culminates with the song “Fire Walk With Me.”  Some of the lyrics are, however, a bit over-dramatic such: “Every woman who’s ever loved you is telling you lies” is a rather sweeping and generalized statement.

“Every Little Thing” is also a strong showing from the duo. The message of this song is all about karma and the idea that “Every little thing that you do / Is always gonna come back to you.”  It seems like the artists were in a different place throughout the making of this album — while they were mad at all women in “Tell Me Lies,” “Every Little Thing” shows a more realistic side of the duo and suggests that if you don’t act faithfully, it will get back to you.

While the band itself was formed in Ohio, the album name and cover art has roots in Tennessee. The duo was early in their recording process for Let’s Rock when a prisoner, Edmund Zagorski, was executed using the electric chair method in Nashville for the first time since 2007. The prisoner’s last words were “let’s rock,” which was powerful and resonated with the artists on their journey to produce a rock album. The electric chair is also featured as the album cover artwork and is a curious touch to an otherwise “classic” Black Keys album.

 

Rachel Mattessich is a senior in The College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at rjm463@cornell.edu.