The Black Keys

Though guitar 'n' drums blues/punk duos are proliferating faster than the offspring of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, none of them plays more down and dirty than this pair from Akron, Ohio. The White Stripes, the Raveonettes, and the Kills may all have loftier musical ambitions, but the Keys -- guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney -- keep things stone-simple. With minimal lyrics (usually about wretched lovelorn pain), raw blazing guitar and monster drumming, the shoutin' and stompin' pair's full-length debut lays it on thick.

Sounding eerily like Bad Company's Paul Rodgers after a long week of inhaling corn liquor at Junior Kimbrough's juke joint, Auerbach aches his way through songs like "Set You Free," a cover of "Have Love Will Travel," the screeching "No Trust" and the soon-to-be-discovered pole-dancers fave "Hurt Like Mine" with a ferocity that leaves little room for subtlety.

And don't adjust your stereo, kids -- the record really does sound that fuzzy. It's Neanderthal and it kills enough to wipe out an armored brigade with its blunt force. Occasionally, the riffs and beating do get a bit repetitive and plodding, as in "Everywhere," but Auerbach's progressions are memorable as he hammers them in again and again over the course of a song.

Reportedly recorded in a single 14-hour session in the basement of a house with minimal morning-after overdubs, thickfreakness stands well among Fat Possum's roster of apocalyptic bluesmen like T-Model Ford and R.L. Burnside.


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