The Black Keys
Rubber Factory



by nbaronz USER (1 Reviews)
December 8th, 2012 | 14 replies

Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) return in full force for their 2004 LP, Rubber Factory. Comparisons to The White Stripes be damned – these boys take blues grit and make it their own.

The Black Keys’ earlier work is noted for being recorded and produced entirely in drummer Patrick Carney’s basement. However, once Carney’s landlord sold the building in which the fabled studio rested, the band was forced to move elsewhere. Thus it came to be that the band settled their studio plans into an abandoned tire-making factory, soon after which the aptly-named Rubber Factory was born. Accordingly, the album retains much of the welcomed rawness that pervades the band’s first two releases. However, these salty garage-rockers have much more to offer than your average lo-fi rock-out.

Despite the sparse instrumentality of the album, one can hardly recognize the absence of the usual bass, rhythm guitar, and other typical embellishments throughout most of the songs. Evoking the dynamic talent of many-a-blues-legend past, Auerbach’s voice often strands the line between gentle croon and gruff roar, a trait best displayed by the transition of “The Lengths” into the explosive “Grown So Ugly”. Likewise, his trademark guitar work is put on full display, alternately providing tuneful riffage and complimenting his vocal melodies. To praise Auerbach’s lyrics as being especially profound would be a little naïve. Rather, they exist in much the same realm as his songs, with a sort of precocious energy and unadorned honesty that could easily be mistaken for laziness if it weren’t for the nature of the music. Carney’s drumming frames it all to great effect, being neither overly simplistic nor distracting.

The stylistic coarseness for which the band’s earlier work is known is flaunted to fantastic effect on the album’s dirtier tracks, including the catchy “10 A.M. Automatic” and “The Desperate Man”, the former of which resolves with a guitar solo that may even startle you on your first few listens. Similarly, opener “When the Lights Go Out” and “The Desperate Man” churn along with gritty determination, bringing to mind the album’s namesake. However, the highlight of Rubber Factory stands out as being the least typical for the band. Coming in at track seven and 4:55 in length, “The Lengths” is the longest song The Black Keys had recorded by over a minute. Its layering of slide melodies and acoustic guitar(!) under heart-wrenching vocals make it one of the most unique tracks in the band’s discography – and one of the best.

Admittedly, the album isn’t without its shortcomings. The latter half of a record typically falls prey to a band’s indulgences and “filler” tracks, and Rubber Factory is no exception. After the frenetic “Grown So Ugly”, a noticeable lull in quality becomes evident, with the relatively sedated “Act Nice and Gentle” being pleasant, but ultimately forgettable. Likewise, “Stack Shot Billy” and “Aeroplane Blues” unsuccessfully attempt to emulate the energy of earlier tracks on the album, sounding better suited to B-sides. However, closing track “Till I Get My Way” quickly reminds the listener of the duo’s songwriting prowess. With its melodic riffing and upbeat pace, it suggestively draws the listener into hitting the repeat button, as any good closer should.

In retrospect, it’s easy to hear why people are drawn to the band in the first place. Amidst a decade of increasingly inflated indie pretensions, there comes the desire to break away from the constructs of style and hipness that pop culture propagates. I’ve found that Rubber Factory settles nicely into the framework of an album to be enjoyed in its purest form – sans the bells and whistles. In 2012, it’s one I often find myself breaking out again and again.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
December 8th 2012


Well, there's my first review. Never thought it'd happen, but this one was begging for it. Constructive criticism is always appreciated!

December 8th 2012


Album Rating: 4.5

Nice first review! I love this album and there shall forever be a copy in the glove box of my car. At least until I sell my car, then I'll probably pick a new CD to keep in the glove box.

December 8th 2012


Good review. I love this album, used to listen to it all the time. Gonna dig up all my Black Keys CDs when I get home, methinks.

This is MUCH better than the old review lol.

Digging: Scratch Acid - The Greatest Gift

December 8th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, especially given it's your first. I actually saw The Black Keys last night, excellent show.

December 8th 2012


Album is wicked, I love this band. I never liked their stuff after Magic Potion though.

Digging: Turnstile - Glow On

December 8th 2012


Thanks for all the positive feedback! To risk sounding like a scenester, I have to say I feel like something was lost in the band's transition to a major label. Not that albums like Brothers aren't good in their own right, but I tend to miss that "hit record and jam" -sound of their earlier stuff.

December 13th 2012


you don't have to apologize for being a bit "scenester." Not sure how many people on sputnik aren't anti-mainstream. Either way... good review. pos'd

August 30th 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

The Lengths is their best song ever.

August 13th 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

That riff in Keep Me is so sexy

Digging: Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

June 20th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

They lost me at 'Attack and Release' - one of the few Danger Mouse acts I don't dig. I do like this album though, especially the second half.

Still, something about them doesn't gel 100% for me. I find myself getting bored on tracks I know other people love.

May 5th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Gotta love the Beefheart cover

October 13th 2020


Somebody needs to stop me from listening to "the lengths." It's getting out of control! The guitar hooks me in so much.

Digging: Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted

May 17th 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

This band is so amazing. My favorite.

May 17th 2021


Add me to the train of “The Lengths” hype.

Digging: James McMurtry - The Horses And The Hounds

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