The Black Keys return with a vengeance in “Let’s Rock”

Tanner Owens

The Black Keys, one of rock music’s most powerful and unique duos, returns after a five-year hiatus with 2019’s “Let’s Rock.”

The album does a good job with the title, but the Keys have changed their sound a bit, starting with the first song of the album, “Shine A Little Light.”

Brought to fame at the turn of the decade with their album “Brothers,” The Black Keys became known for hard-rocking instrumentals coupled with Dan Auerbach’s unique voice. The band infused elements of blues and soul into their early works as well before opting for a more pop-inspired endeavor in the form of 2014’s “Turn Blue.”

The album’s first song sets a blistering pace. With a crescendoing opening bit that explodes into a full-fledged head-banger, “Shine A Little Light” shows that the Black Keys haven’t lost their edge. The chorus is exceptional and is driven by Auerbach’s ferocious power chords and drummer Patrick Carney playing as well as ever.

“Eagle Bird” follows and takes the tempo down a notch, but not by much. With a less boisterous instrumental section, “Eagle Bird” takes the Black Keys back to a sound reminiscent of their earlier works.

“Lo/Hi,” the lead single of the album, became the first song ever to simultaneously top Billboard’s Mainstream Rock, Adult Alternative Songs, Rock Airplay and Alternative Songs charts when it was released back in April. The song has an infectious chorus with Auerbach singing “You get low like a valley, Then high like a bird in the sky, You get low ‘cause you’re angry.”

“Walk Across The River” is particularly lethargic in comparison to other songs on the album but isn’t overly bad. The song harkens back to 70’s rock made popular by bands like America. With swanky guitar breaks dispersed throughout and Auerbach filling in the gaps with mellow verses, “Walk Across The River” doesn’t shine but doesn’t stand as detrimental to the album’s sound.

“Tell Me Lies” falls in the same category as “Walk Across The River,” bringing plenty of guitar strums quickly cut short to produce a very choppy effect which drives the song forward. The song finds its strength in Auerbach’s chorus, which becomes a trend throughout the album. 

“Every Little Thing” is a clear highlight of the album. Auerbach sounds as good as ever and lends a softer tone to the song’s verses. His guitar playing truly breaks free in the song as well, with a beautiful, albeit short, solo taking place at the 2:15 mark.

“Get Yourself Together” is a foot-tapping-inducing song that feels a little too familiar. Although a decent song, it doesn’t feel like anything new, instead feeling like a song from 2011’s “El Camino” that just didn’t make the cut. Relatively inoffensive and groovy, “Get Yourself Together” fits in nicely at the middle of the 38-minute album.

“Sit Around And Miss You” has the same feel as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1970 song “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” With a constantly strumming acoustic guitar followed by Auerbach’s soulful electric guitar solos, the song is layered nicely but is a little too quick of a listen.

“Go,” the ninth song of the album, stands with “Every Little Thing” as one of the best songs of the album. Hard-charging and filled with exceptional guitar and percussion work, “Go” really goes from start to finish. Eliciting images of a Nascar race on a summer day, “Go” is the perfect song to welcome the Black Keys back to the rock scene.

Although the verses lack depth, “Breaking Down” offers superb instrumental breaks accented by Auerbach’s rich voice. Carney is an unsung hero in the song, bringing a ton of energy from his percussion section. Tambourines and plenty of cymbal-work make this song work wonders in the choruses. 

The last two songs of the album, “Under The Gun” and “Fire Walk With Me,” both keep with the trend of lethargic verses followed by explosive and engaging choruses. “Fire Walk With Me” has  much more intriguing instrumental work throughout the whole song, while “Under The Gun” is a little too tame during Auerbach’s verses. 

“Let’s Rock” isn’t a career-defining album for the Black Keys by any means, but stands as a worthy comeback from a far-too-long hiatus. The rock world is better when the Black Keys are at the forefront.