The Black Keys
Magic Potion



by La Revolucion USER (8 Reviews)
September 17th, 2006 | 29 replies

Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Black Keys fall flat on their faces with Nonesuch label debut "Magic Potion."

It was bound to happen sometime. The Black Keys had to lose their edge over the garage-rock scene eventually. After all, it’s a very rare band that creates even 3 consistently solid albums, and it’s an even rarer band that can accomplish that feat without ever changing their sound. The Black Keys, though keeping the same barroom blues rock sound, have lost the actual song quality needed to sustain an album with the release of Magic Potion. Even the album cover art (not to mention the rather odd picture of a fried egg found on the inside) seems to let everyone know, “We stopped trying.”

The first thing that sounds rather off on the album is Dan Auerbach’s voice. It is constantly run through a heavy distortion-y effect and pushed to the far back of the mix. Not only is the vocal distortion obnoxious, it’s also pointless. Auerbach’s voice is full of gritty heart and soul without any effects, which just get in the way of his soulful, emotional delivery.

The next most obvious change from old Black Keys to Magic Potion era Black Keys is that the guitar riffs, though bluesier and more creative than ever, were recorded in such a way that the guitar has almost no bottom, booming end. That’s not the ideal tone for a band that has no bass player. Of course, there are exceptions for rules, as on “Give Your Heart Away.” The guitar is just as creamy and distorted as it has been on previous albums, and there are no obvious vocal effects that take away from the song. Another issue is that the Black Keys normally somewhat complex blues rock formula has been extremely simplified on Magic Potion, with most songs relying on just one or two parts to get themselves across, and one of the parts is usually not quite that good. In the end, it just doesn’t work. The only part of the Black Keys that has remained intact is Patrick Carney’s ferocious drumming, which, though not heavily technical or difficult, is played with such intensity and feeling that you can’t help but nod your head along with the beat.

The most aggravating thing about Magic Potion is the fact that every song has one decidedly awesome part, most of which lie in the intros. They get you excited, making you think you're in for another Keys gem. However, as soon as the riff ends, an extremely dull and mundane section that consists of pointless noodling. will begin. It's ridiculous how many times this formula accurately describes a song. A perfect example is “Strange Desire,” which starts off with a 60’s garage rock inspired guitar chord stabbing riff that oozes "cool." Soon afterward, it leads into a sleep-inducing, mega-slow artsy blues jam section that continues till just about the end of the song.

Maybe it has something to do with their record label switch from Fat Possum to Nonesuch, or maybe they’re just running out of ideas that can stretch their standard blues-rock formula out enough to sound fresh and new all the time. Whatever it is, the Black Keys have lost most of the down to earth garage rock magic that made appearances throughout their past three albums. To regain it, they might have to change the little bit of their sound that differed in Magic Potion back to the thick and heavy distortion and soulful blues goodness of previous efforts. Until then, the Black Keys are no longer the sort of music to play on a spirited, night on the town. Magic Potion doesn't even really have a clear "single" song, like "10 A.M. Automatic" or "Set You Free." Almost everything that was good about the Black Keys is stripped away, and left as a skeleton of their former selves. If you're in the market for some ultra-simple, repetitive blues-rock, give Magic Potion a shot. If you have any common sense, just pick up the rest of the Key's catalog for ideas as to how two-person blues rock should be done.

Recommended Tracks
Your Touch
Give Your Heart Away

Overall Rating

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Comments:Add a Comment 
La Revolucion
September 17th 2006


This album was disappointing and made me sad.

September 17th 2006


You dissed this album pretty bad yet you gave it an average score? Decent review but you've done better.

La Revolucion
September 17th 2006


Upon rereading, I'm really not too happy with this review either. However, I was under the impression a 3 was average. That's what it says in the dropdown box from the review submission page.

EDIT: Did a little bit of cleaning up and sprucing up here and there on the review. Hopefully it made it better.This Message Edited On 09.17.06

September 17th 2006


Album Rating: 2.0

Not the greatest review, but it does the job. Awful album, but not a large disapointment, their last album was terrible also.

La Revolucion
September 18th 2006


Eww, my worst review was featured. I better fix it up.

September 18th 2006


pretty cool, dude.

September 19th 2006


Is it really that bad? The Black Keys are my favorite band out there still making music, their first three albums are excellent. I really hope it isn't as bad as you make it out to be.

La Revolucion
September 19th 2006


Oh, it's that bad.

September 19th 2006


Thanks for that review i think ill stick to rubber factory.

September 23rd 2006


too much chords

November 8th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

I love this album but I guess this was my first introduction to them. As soon as 'Just Got to Be' kicked in I was hooked on this band. Learnt to play most of the songs on this album as they are just so much fun and a nice change from playing metal.

November 27th 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

i dunno why all the hate on this album... its my fav black keys album for sure. admittedly it was actualy the first album ive heard from the group but i own all of them and i still think its the best, followed closely by chulahoma.

November 29th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

i thought it was much better than the last one, and i honestly think they benefit from the new production methods. and i don't know what the fuck this guy was talking about, the slow blues jam almost put me to sleep. but in a good way.

February 28th 2008


eh, not their best but its still good, a 2 is a bit harsh. ill give it 3-3.5 cuz a bad Black Keys is still better than most bands best

February 28th 2008


ps i just heard their new release due out in April, Attack and Release, and it suffers from the same issues as this album

March 20th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

its not a bad album at all. they are a band that keeps growing and changing you just need to listen to it more until it grows on you

October 8th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

Elevator is such a delicious tune, this review is nonsense

August 2nd 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

In comparison to every other album they've done..........very average

November 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

this album is fucking awesome, reviewer mustve been smokin some terrible shit 4 years ago

January 16th 2011


I like The Black Keys.

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