In the early 2010s, a band that had spent most of the preceding decade building a strong following in the indie rock community arrived in the mainstream. Rising out of the rust belt city of Akron, Ohio, the Black Keys released two albums, Brothers in 2010, and El Camino in 2011. These works of art are responsible for bringing them to the mainstream and led to massive commercial success. Songs like “Tighten Up,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” and “Little Black Submarines” were all featured prominently in movie trailers, commercials and ruled the radio. Building on their success, in 2014 the band released the album Turn Blue, which again was successful, but was characterized by a more psychedelic sound than the previous albums.
And then, just as the band appeared to be at their highest peak, they vanished. They retreated from the constant touring and song-writing and focused on slowing down for a bit. Now, five years later, they’ve returned, and they’re back with a guitar-based sound on 2019’s Let’s Rock.
Prior to the album’s release on June 28, the band dropped album trailers, which were inspired by the commercials of the 1980s and 1990s, and built hype across social media. The band also dropped the lead single “Lo/Hi” in the early spring, which instantly hooked me with its catchy and riveting guitar.
As the spring dragged on, I found solace in two more singles. Fortunately, they were released during the golden days in the era before the cellphone ban, so I was able to listen to them in school. The track, “Eagle Birds” and “Go” set the mood for the upcoming album: fast and loud. Although I missed the release date due to World Challenge, (and therefore a shot at the pink vinyl release from the band’s website) I was very pleased with the result upon my return to the states.
The album truly is, as member Patrick Carney remarked, “an homage to the electric guitar.” The album echoes the sounds of the guitar gods of the past in a nearly uncanny way. This can be heard especially with the track “Go,” which conjures up memories of Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” Despite this, the band has clearly come full circle, with the breezy guitar providing the perfect soundtrack for lazy and hazy summer nights in the suburbs.
In order to promote the album, the band returned to the touring life with a massive tour throughout the fall of 2019 across the nation. The Black Keys have done it again, and provided the country’s wars with the continuation of Rock music into the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. The album was an absolute fulfillment of what I was anticipating, and I await the next album eagerly; I just hope this time it won’t take 5 years.