Though The Black Keys have been pegged as being part of the current garage-blues revival, they consider themselves a rock act, and Dan Auerbach has more in common with Jimi Hendrix than with any other past-master singer-guitarist. Of course, Hendrix was primarily a bluesman, too, but his flashy vocal-instrumental interplay eventually became a standard for hard rock singer-guitarists.
The title of the Keys’ third album refers to the abandoned tire plant in their hometown of Akron, Ohio, where they recorded it, but it also describes Auerbach’s elastic style. Hard rock songs like “10 A.M. Automatic” and “All Hands Against His Own” bend and twist all over the place, propelled by Patrick Carney’s pounding drum work, cleverly inserted hand-claps, and Auerbach’s talent for blending power chords and stinging hot single-note fills. The closed-eye intensity of Auerbach’s vocals still convey his obsessions with black music, nowhere more obviously than on “Stack Shot Billy,” his own original take on the Staggerlee legend, but “Rubber Factory” demonstrates growth in other directions. Auerbach and Carney move into almost straight country on “The Lengths” and the Kinks cover “Act Nice and Gentle.”
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