Review Summary: A superb album that still holds the band's core sound, but strengthens it with some developmental changes. It is certainly the perfect album for fans that are just getting into The Black Keys.
Often when you read album reviews, people speak of how the band should have/shouldn't have changed their sound or how they did change their sound and how it affected the album. The Black Keys are a band whose albums have kept at least a similar, steady sound up to this point of the duration of their career. However, with Attack & Release, The Black Keys offered up some level of maturation and development to their sound. The core sound is still there, but something is new.
People can claim that this sound I speak of is a more mainstream sound, which isn't completely incorrect, the songs are hooky as can be. But that certainly isn't what I think changed the album. The real development for the band largely relies on the guitars. They aren't nearly as driving as they were in albums such as The Big Come Up or Thickfreakness, but have a thicker, more lingering groove to them.
Instrumentally, Attack & Release could be seen as a part two to Magic Potion. They sort of started this whole transformation there if you think about it, and I think they learned a huge amount from Magic Potion. However, the band's development isn't quite as noticeable on Magic Potion as it is on Attack & Release. The Keys offer us a much groovier album with Attack & Release than what we've ever heard from them before. The guitar, while still crunchy, seems to flow much, much easier and isn't as much of a crash course as it had previously been. I will also go out on a limb and say that the drums work in accordance with the guitar more than they have before as well. All of this in one extremely well executed package.
Lyrically, the album doesn't seem to wander too far from the band's earlier work. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, everyone loves heart torn anti-love songs about bad women. They do show a little progression though. Songs such as "So He Won't Break" and "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be" seem to hit a more personal note in the band's hearts and it actually turns out perfectly.
Overall, this album is superb, to put it mildly. There are a few songs that slow it down a bit. Tracks such as "Lies" and "Same Old Thing" seem a little bit like filler, but they are completely ignorable compared to the many, and I mean many, high spots of this album. To mention a few, "I Got Mine", "Psychotic Girl", "Remember When (Side A)", and "Things Ain't Like They Used To Be". This album would be perfect for a newcomer to the band. In my opinion, it drops the listener right in the middle of what The Black Keys are all about.