Blk Keys Brothers 01

As a bit of a font geek it was the cover that first got me into Black Keys Brothers; I knew enough of my history to know they’d pinched the idea from The Howlin’ Wolf Album but what me worry? I thought, and still think, the packaging of this LP is genius.  I love the whole ‘These are the songs on this album’, ‘These are the guys in the band’ commentary going on, very basic, very showy, totally clever.

I bought this first on CD without ever having heard a song by Black Keys to keep me awake during a long night drive home in awful weather (I know I’ve told this story before, it was the same trip – GREAT soundtrack!), within 5 minutes I was totally hooked by ‘Next Girl’ and listened to that track 4 times in a row, by the time I drove home again a few days later I was word perfect on the whole of Brothers.  Although I splashed out later on the vinyl, which cost a bomb* and came with a free CD copy of the album (although my original CD was a double, with some live in the studio versions of the tracks The Akron Sessions).

Blk Keys Brothers 02

It’s a difficult thing to pin down why this is such a great, great LP but listening to Brothers over and over this week I think I’ve got it.  Quite simply it’s a dirt-basic formula of great songs, played and produced brilliantly – easy, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it!  There are no tricks and gimmicks to date the sound at all and I suspect that Brothers will sound every bit as good in 2040 in our space pods as it does today.  They carry off the neat trick of sounding very contemporary and classic, so much so that even on a first listen you can convince yourself you’re rediscovering songs you heard somewhere, years ago.

Take opener ‘Everlasting Light’, the drum and guitar sound and ‘shhhh’ noises, the warm production and gentle crescendo, that astonishing falsetto, you could be stumbling across a jam from a legendary half-finished LP, pulled from a dusty cupboard in Muscle Shoals (where the bulk of the LP was recorded, initially).  Did I mention my love for ‘Next Girl’ yet? I’ve always been a sucker for a bitter break-up song sung like it still hurts, add in some swampy atmosphere and you’ve got me eating out of your hand, possibly for ever.

Well, the look of the cake, it ain’t
It ain’t always the taste
My ex girl,  she had such a
Such a beautiful face

Oh,  my next girl
Will be nothing like my ex girl
I made mistakes back  then
I’ll never do it again

Then a whistle, a drum beat and suddenly we’re off into ‘Tighten Up’, a Danger Mouse production with it’s hip-hop drum patterns, contrasted against some wonderful 60’s style organ and great, changing, time signatures.  Modern, classic, perfect.  It get’s even better with the predatory, ‘Howlin’ For You’ the mean fuzz and menacing vocals house-trained by a great tune and skittish drumming – I have very fond memories of drunkenly dancing to this in a club a few years back, entirely by myself.  Ahh, 1537: The Lost Years.

Blk Keys Brothers 04

I’ll spare you the full A-B-C of Brothers, hell you probably own it too.  I used to think it died off a bit towards the end, but I wised up.  It’s all damn good, the swampy, umm, muddy instrumental ‘Black Mud’, the harpsichord toting ‘Too Afraid To Love You’, the straight blues-soul of ‘Ten Cent Pistol’ – I won’t bore you.  But there’s a real sense of Brothers being an LP made just the way bands used to make them, every song having it’s own sound and it’s own merits, nothing here is about a Black Keys sound imposed on the tunes, it’s the other way around if anything.  Take the closer ‘These days’, a song and a feeling and a vocal (for that matter) that the Stones, the Band, or even The Beatles would be proud to own, not to mention a whole host of decent soul singers I’m nowhere near cool enough to identify.  It’s a beautiful jaded lament for simpler, more innocent times, I could imagine Janis Joplin doing it real justice,

These blood red eyes
Don’t see so good
But what’s worse is if they could
Would I change my ways?
Wasted times and broken dreams
Violent colors so obscene
It’s all I see these days

The way I see it is that if you’re not the sort of genre-blinded nutter** who will only listen to Brazillian Gruntcore, or weedy indie bands from Brooklyn, then Brothers will speak to you on some level.  Hell, if you like music you’ll like this LP.  Brothers just embodies so much of what has been great in American music over the last 45 years.  It’s an LP to fall in love with, and to; to fall out of love to, but not with.  It’ll always sound like a stormy drive at night to me.  It’s a classic, it really is.  It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, or leave you wanting more.

And cooper black is one hell of a font.

Blk Keys Brothers 03

290 Down.

P.S – if you never have check out the videos they made for the singles from Brothers, each and every one a classic.

*although not as much as El Camino which cost me an arm and a leg, I’m currently into a 2-year savings plan so I can afford their next vinyl release.

**which I certainly have been at times.

26 thoughts on “Cooper Black

  1. I love your Dan Auerbach Lego.

    I have a love/hate thing with Black Keys. Some great songs, but it’s actually the production that I don’t like. I have a hard time describing what it is that I don’t like. I find their songs sound “clunky” rhythmically, and then when Patrick Carney produced the new Sheepdogs album, he went and imposed that clunky rhythm upon them — a sound they never had before and in my opinion did not need.

    Howlin’ For You is a pretty good example of what I mean. Does that make sense?

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    1. It does, but I disagree, I love their sound. So Wales has now broken off all diplomatic relations with Canada, just wait until that Tom Jones shortage really starts to bite!

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      1. We have to break off relations because we disagree? That seems kind of, well, undiplomatic. Don’t make me send the Royal Canadian Navy after you. We have a canoe. Next year they’re buying a motor for it.

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      2. Okay we surrender. I’ll ceremonially mail you both copies of ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ we have in this household to seal the deal.

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      3. Mrs 1537 and I both bought it on the same day (I loved Reckless and Cuts Like a Knife), I can still remember the disappointment when I span it for the first time it, umm, cut like a knife.

        Sadly just the standard English version – did he sing it in Spanish?

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      4. Yeah that’s my understanding. In the 1990’s she had pen pals all over the world, and somebody from Mexico sent her a cassette dub of the Spanish version.

        It was an official release on a single in some territories, but neither of us have ever run across it. She had a lot of rare BA including his first disco hit “Let Me Take You Dancing” and a copy of “Reggae Christmas” on green vinyl.

        I have to say that Into The Fire is a very underrated album. That’s he one that came after Cuts Like A Knife, but before the dreaded Everything I Do.

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      5. Its the only one I own actually, I noticed you used Remembrance Day recently. I liked it but I haven’t played it for years and years – since November is B-month here on 1537 FM, I might pull it out soon; I liked a track called Another Day too.

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  2. Speaking as a genre-blinded nutter devotee of ChuckleBrothersCore, I can honestly say there is no way I’m letting my kids go to the same goddamn school as Dan Auerbach’s kids! NO WAY! AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE ANY KIDS!!! Grrrr

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  3. I also kinda have a thing for fonts. The problem is, I can’t decide which one I like best, as they all have their charms. Some of my favourites are the Křižík fountain, the Hellbrunn Palace fountain, the Trocadero fountain, the Havis Amanda fountain, and the Jet d’eau, although the last one isn’t strictly a fountain, I guess.

    As for the “Ten Cent Pistol,” I mean really! What kind of a pistol cost only ten cents? Even in the late 19th century a Colt revolver cost between $20 – $30. Goodness, even the rounds to load it cost more! No wonder you were afraid of boring someone, leaving a hole in their head when that impossibly cheap pistol misfired, killing them.

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    1. You’re being willfully obscure! Everyone knows that font is short for fondant.

      I assume the ten cent pistol was part of a multipack deal, or maybe redeemable tokens from cereal boxes (always better than irredeemable tokens).

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      1. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but being British, I thought that you would have spelt the word for the appearance of a character in print as “fount.”

        For me, “font” derives from the latin “fons, font,” for spring of water, which is reflected in such place names as Claire Fontaine, NB; Cours d’eau Fontaine, QC; Lac Fontbonne, QC; Fonthill, ON; Font Mountain, BC, and so on.

        Willfully obscure indeed.

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  4. My favorite Black Keys album by far, then Magic Potion.

    You’re right, it’s a timeless album. The songs would sound right played now and 40 years ago.

    For me, “The Go Getter” is a kick ass number. I could hear it in a Tarantino flick, or playing as I walk in slow motion down Michigan Ave in Chicago. Makes me feel like a badass every time I hear it.

    The album cover makes me think of Sanford & Son.

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    1. I only know this, El Camino & Thickfreakness – I’m sure there are other bits of brilliance out there.

      I know exactly what you mean about Go Getter, you can see someone playing with a knife every time it plays…

      Sanford & Son? Mumford & Son’s cousins?

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      1. I didn’t care for El Camino all that much. Magic Potion, Attack & Release, and Brothers are for my money their best albums. Rubber Factory was good, too. They do a great cover of the Kinks’ “Act Nice and Gentle” on that record.

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