Thursday, May 27, 2010

Albums We Love: Rubber Factory by the Black Keys

"The Black Keys play the kind of raw, sensual blues-rock that makes you want to hide your girlfriend and warn your mom."- Katie Hasty, Billboard Magazine.

 I am a recent convert to the Black Keys. For years, I avoided listening to them because they are frequently (and somewhat misleadingly) labeled as a blues-rock band, which conjures up images of Blues Traveler, John Mayer, the Doobie Brothers, and countless other acts that are really not my taste.  Thankfully, the Keys are less Blueshammer and more early Stones.  They have a gritty, sexy, primal sound that seems as rooted in 60s garage rock as it does Junior Kimbrough records.  All of their albums warrant a listen (or several), but Rubber Factory is a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.

Rubber Factory got its name from the tire factory where it was recorded; the band hails from Akron, Ohio, former rubber capital of the world.  The album has a deliberately raw and unpolished sound; it feels as sweaty and smoky as a live show.  The Keys' sound is minimalistic and classic, but it's as powerful and well-crafted as bands that have layers and layers of sound. From the opening clamor of Patrick Carney's drums on "When the Lights Go Out" to the cool, Velvet Underground-y fuzz guitar on "Till I Get My Way," Rubber Factor is delightfully fun rock album.   "10 A.M. Automatic" is a catchy rock anthem on love turned sour; the video for the song, a parody on cable-access TV directed by David Cross, is pretty cool too. "Girl is on my Mind" is a simple rock lust song that wouldn't feel out of place on the Kinks Controversy.  My favorite track on the album is "The Lengths."  Dan Auerbach's slide steel guitar perfectly fits the mood of the song, which seems to be about the break up of a long-term relationship.  It's a haunting and quiet track on an otherwise noisy, rocking album.  The Key's cover of the relatively obscure Kink's song "Act Nice and Gentle" is another standout on the album.  No offense to Ray Davies, who is probably my favorite song-writer ever, but I enjoy this version much more than the original.  While the clean, poppy original is fine; the Keys' loose, country-tinged cover really brings the song to life. 

The Keys are a staff favorite, Jason recently wrote up their rap-rock side project Blakroc.  One of the things that I appreciate about the band is that seem more like music geeks than rock gods.  However, Rubber Factory proves that two nerdy kids from Ohio can make an album with just as much swagger and sex as anything released by the Stones.

Find it in the Catalog!