Akron, Ohio drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist Dan Auerbach, who together make up the Black Keys, are reinvigorating blues/rock by sticking to the basics: the sound of a screaming, feedback-drenched guitar clashing with a kick drum that smacks you like the loud splat of a drunk's head bouncing off the floor in a smoky Saturday night dive.
The duo recorded their breakout 2003 album, thickfreakness, during one fourteen-hour session in the basement of Auerbach's parents' house, and its grimy, under-produced sound was part of its charm. Rubber Factory took two months to lie down, and while the sound is still raw, there are hints of a more mainstream approach creeping in. Auerbach's guitar overdubs are more obvious, and the country blues picking is complimented by a bit of jaw dropping pop metal fretwork. His primal yowl has developed a smoother, more soulful side.
The Black Keys are also writing tunes with real melodies. "10 A.M. Automatic" sounds like an outtake from an early Free album, "The Lengths" is a song of lost love, and a Delta-flavored cover of The Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle" reminds us that the Davies brothers also dreamed of being Muddy Waters and Hubert Sumlin.