Posts Tagged ‘Danger Mouse’
The way I look at it, The Black Keys oeuvre can be split rather definitively into distinct “eras,” if you will. First, you’ve got their first four studio albums, which are largely a collection of shaggy, Midwest-inflected minimalist garage rock with increasingly polished studio sheen and production values. Then, in 2008, they dropped the Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton-produced album, Attack & Release, which represented a giant leap forward in terms of defining just what exactly this band could be. That record was chock-full of on-the-money experimentations, introducing a groovy psychedelia to the band’s basket of tricks, and it just may be their finest work.
Of course, most people will point to the two subsequent records–the commercially gargantuan Brothers and El Camino–as their crowning achievements, and I won’t put up a fight to contest that. Those albums vaulted this band to superstar status for a reason–they’re packed with sleek, retro-soul and biting blues songs that had hooks for days. Their greatness is largely inarguable. Even so, I always felt that Attack & Release offered a deeper experience than either of its successors, as it never fit quite so snugly into the accepted concepts of what “pop” music should sound like (don’t get me wrong, it is still a very accessible, hooky album, but not nearly in the same way that Brothers and El Camino are).
Turn Blue, the band’s eighth studio album, represents in some ways a return to the psychedelic triumphs of Attack & Release. It’s no surprise that it also features co-production duties from Danger Mouse. And while Danger Mouse was involved to varying degrees with the past two records, A&R and Turn Blue are the ones which truly carry the mark of his sound on their souls.
Instead of writing a bunch of words that would serve as my review of The Black Keys’ latest album, El Camino, I could just point you in the direction of the music video for the record’s lead single and opening track, “Lonely Boy.” It’s nothing more than a single continuous shot of one Derrick T. Tuggle shaking what his mother gave him and lip synching along with the lyrics. He’s so totally into the music. It encapsulates my feelings on the record to a T. But I will forgo the easy way out and type up some actual words expressing textually how this album makes me want to get up and move, just like Mr. Tuggle.
And don’t worry. The video is at the end of the review.
With uber-producer Danger Mouse on board for 2008′s Attack & Release, The Black Keys made one of the best albums of that year – and probably in recent memory. The Black Keys were making good music before Danger Mouse entered the fold, but he added another dimension to the band’s traditional, straight-up blues rock formula by incorporating psychedelic touches and little instrumentation flairs here and there. Basically, he fleshed out their sound and made it a little more dynamic.
On Brothers, however, Danger Mouse only manned the production board for one song, the album’s first single “Tighten Up” – leaving the Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, to handle the rest of the load themselves. So right off the bat, the first question in my mind was whether they’d be able to live up to the bar they set with their last album.
To my delight, Danger Mouse was not the vital ingredient to the Keys’ reinvented sound. The guys do a swell job on their own again, and Brothers can confidently stand toe-to-toe against anything in the group’s catalog.
It’s a shame that Broken Bells had to release their debut album on the same day that Gorillaz dropped their latest, Plastic Beach (which I reviewed yesterday).
That’s because, as I’ve mentioned before, Broken Bells sounds strikingly similar to their cartoon counterparts much of the time, but without the wild eccentricity and excitement. Those comparisons are inevitable since one half of Broken Bells is Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, who produced Gorillaz’ epic album Demon Days. The omnipresent analog synths that are Gorillaz’ trademark are present here as well, which usually leaves the singers as the only major difference between the two groups.
But that’s a significant difference. Whereas Damon Albarn plays off his hushed, melancholic croon in Gorillaz, James Mercer, of the Shins, adds a greater range to the styling of Broken Bells.
But Broken Bells is not a rip-off of Gorillaz and deserves to be judged on its own merits.
Broken Bells, the new group made up of Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and The Shins’ James Mercer, will be releasing their debut self-titled album on March 9.
They have two songs from the album, “Vaporize” and “The High Road,” streaming over at their Myspace page. iTunes is also offering “The High Road” as their free single of the week, so go grab that.
Given that Burton has worked with Gorillaz in the past, producing their acclaimed album Demon Days, it’s no surprise that those influences come on strong in this project as well. In fact, “The High Road” sounds almost exactly like a Gorillaz track, only with Mercer singing instead of Damon Albarn. And that’s not exactly a bad thing, since Demon Days pretty much rocked. The main difference is that Broken Bells doesn’t seem to be embracing the whole electro-dance aspect of Gorillaz’ music, focusing instead on the moody, quirky part.
Track list for Broken Bells after the jump: