Review Summary: Danger Mouse introduces The Black Keys to Psychedelia.
It's impossible to even begin discussing this album without mentioning the person behind it, Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse has developed an eminent reputation for being not just one of the most respected producers in modern music, but also as an accomplished songwriter who has worked in a variety of genres.
It's tough to say how much of this new found psychedelic influence in the music comes from Danger Mouse, and how much comes from The Black Keys themselves. The Black Keys had begun to develop a reputation for their heavy Blues Rock sound, but Psychedelia was never present in their past albums, so it's safe to assume that Danger Mouse was responsible for this new metamorphosis in sound. Now, when first hearing that an artist mainly associated with Hip-Hop was going to produce an album by a Blues band, it's tough to say what people were going to expect but I'm quite certain that this wasn't it. Attack & Release
, for the most part, contains the same ferocity of dirty Blues Rock that can be found in their past efforts but with slight decorations of Psychedelic effects. The album begins with "All You Ever Wanted"
, a soulful acoustic ballad with minor electrical effects for a psychedelic vibe, but overall we get a sense that this is still the same Black Keys we've heard before. Acoustic pieces were a rare treat in previous albums, but from this first track we can already feel the involvement of Danger Mouse within the overall sound. The albums then descends into "I Got Mine"
, which displays a return to what The Black Keys are known for. "I Got Mine"
displays the dextrous synergy Danger Mouse and The Black Keys have developed in their recording sessions. The song, for the most part, presents itself in the familiar Blues Rock fashion the band associates itself with but as the song progresses we find ourselves descending into a strange ambience of psychedelia in the midsection. The Black Keys have never experimented with this type of arrangement in past albums, yet it comes out so natural, as if this was nothing new. Songs like "Strange Times"
and "Oceans & Streams"
follow the same expert coalescence of Psychedelia and Blues Rock, which is a formula reminiscent to that of Cream, whose music was a major influence in this particular album.
is another highlight within the album, starting off with a banjo intro and then flowing into a Bluesy atmosphere orchestrated with typical Rock & Roll and synthesizer effects. The harmonizing back vocals that are used to decorate Dan Auerbach in the chorus create a haunting ambience that make this song one of the band's best compositions. Danger Mouse also guides Dan and Patrick through some new approaches, for example, the tribalistic and paradoxically named; "Same Old Thing"
. The song features a recurring flute melody that guides the song, which makes for an interesting listen. Then, there is "Remember When (Side A)"
, a soft ballad composed of a multitude of psychedelic effects which truly separates it from the rest of the music in the album. Finally, the album finishes with "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be"
For the most part, Attack & Release is a typical Black Keys' album, but Danger Mouse has truly taken this band to new a level of artistry. There is a stronger emphasis on atmospheric ambience within the musical orchestration, but overall, fans can rest assured that The Black Keys haven't steered away too far from their past tendencies. This was a defining moment for the band, as it heralded a new direction in music that would continue to be present in the latter albums, as they incorporate a variety of instruments and sounds into their typical formula of Blues music. This is a fantastic album that would grow to become a steeping stone for a band that would flourish into one of modern Rock's most respected acts. This album is sure to satisfy any fan of The Black Keys.