The best blues always sounds haunted. Which is probably why the Black Key’s last effort, Magic Potion seemed so disappointing.It was a little too secure, a little too safe. Sure, it was perfectly competent, even good at times, but it lacked the hell-hound on your trail desperation that their early material had so successfully channeled. They had lapsed into the sort of amiable sobriety fitting for someone like The Shins but not for a two-piece Delta Blues revival outfit. That’s the thing though, calling The Black Keys “revivalists,” isn’t giving them enough credit. At their best, they create wounded late-night lamentations with a vivid clarity worthy of any great dead blues-man. Indeed, The Chulahoma EP channeled Junior Kimbrough’s ghost better than any two long-haired white dudes from Akron should’ve ever had a prayer of doing. While Rubber Factory and Thickfreakness are great in their own right.
So maybe this is why it’s so pleasant to hear Attack and Release, a record that re-affirms The Keys’ place as one of the best young bands making rock music. By now you’ve probably heard the album’s backstory, how these songs were originally recorded for a Danger Mouse-produced Ike Turner “comeback” that never got off the ground because Ike Turner never got off the ground. And how, they enlisted Danger Mouse to produce their own album instead, an always hit-or miss proposition that thankfully worked out well, as the Keys were able to resist Brian Burton’s pleas to let Cee-Lo make a cameo. More important than the context though is the music, with its vibe all voodoo and venom, wrath and revenge wrapped in every note and lyric. It’s great stuff. If you’re going to buy one CD from an Odd Couple this spring, make it this one.