The Black Keys back again with Dropout Boogie

Black Keys
(Photo: The Black Keys Facebook)
Black Keys

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

Analyzing the music of Dropout Boogie, The Black Keys’ latest album, does not reveal any particularly new trait. At first listening, it is just “more of the same”. And yet the songs are attractive enough to keep you listening on from the first to the last track — and with great pleasure.اضافة اعلان

Released just two months ago, the album by the American duo who first hit the music scene 20 years ago is in the same vein as their previous works, typically referred to as blues-rock and garage band music. How does it measure up to, for example, one of their greatest songs from their debut, “Gold on the Ceiling”?

It is interesting to see that alongside perhaps newer sub-genre pop trends like techno, house, electro, rap, slam and the like, straight rock with easy melodies and heavily distorted electric guitars are still very much in demand and keep selling and generating revenues — regardless of the intrinsic quality of the music brought in. There is still an important audience and market for that.

The 10 songs make extensive use of strongly compressed sound on the vocals and on the guitars. Often, and to give the music its special flavor, the singing is accompanied by the guitars playing exactly the same notes at the same time, in unison, to use a technical musical term. This creates a kind of three-dimensional, typical wide sonic space that is very much ear pleasing. Countless rock bands have used the trick. If it is effective, why should the Back Keys not use it as well, and even overuse it sometimes?

Still, and as pleasant to listen to as the album it is, at the end the listener has the impression that all songs are mere variations of one and the same song. Unconditional fans of the Black Keys may argue that even the greatest composers from the past applied the “variation” method in their works. This is true; even the greatest of them all, classical master Johann Sebastian Bach, has the celebrated “Goldberg Variations” in his catalog. But the comparison ends here, with the word “variation”!

To be fair to the Black Keys, the music is not always monotonous. The sound sometime changes from essentially fast, loud, and energetic, to slower and more subdued, like in “How Long”. Overall, it is excellent rock and roll, very well performed, recorded, and produced. The electric guitar solo lines are superb and show the exceptional skill of the musicians.

Belonging to mainstream rock and roll, again with a touch of the garage band sound that characterized the years 2000 to 2010, the 10 tracks on Dropout Boogie, and depending on the song, conjure up at times the sound of ZZ Top, Green Day (remember Good Riddance…), Foreigner, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and even the good old Rolling Stones, or any combination thereof. Besides, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons himself has contributed some of the compositions on the album.

There are the usual guitar riffs, an essential ingredient of the genre, the relatively simple chords and harmonies – this is not jazz after all, nor progressive rock – and the easy-to-follow melodic lines. The beat is simple, with the usual binary 4/4 time signature.

Who will like Dropout Blues? Most likely those above 30 who enjoy traditional, strong rock and roll. It also is the kind of music that has a stronger appeal when played live before large crowds. Indeed, played in your living room or over headphones, it may sound less attractive and even get tiresome if listened to continuously for more than, say, 15 minutes or so.

As for the lyrics of the songs, well, let us just say that the band’s focus was more on the music side. And no, this time the music is not as good as their “Gold on the Ceiling”.

The Black Keys is made up of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. They have been together since day one. The first plays the guitar and does the vocals, the second plays the drums. Additional personnel, session musicians contribute to the performances, whether in the studio or on stage.

Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

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