The Black Keys ‘Rubber Factory’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#835 in the Series) is The Black Keys, Rubber Factory

The Black Keys have enjoyed quite a bit of success as of late. They received five nominations for the 55th Grammy Awards, tour relentlessly, and just about everybody has heard of them. This wasn’t always the case. Their first three albums began somewhat under the radar. Rubber Factory is their third album and what some people still claim is the best release they’ve had so far. If someone ever asks me what The Black Keys sound like, I always point them to this album. In a nutshell it is blues rock with an unrelenting drive and passion.

When I was growing up I saw a documentary about The Who. There was someone from England who talked about how each person in his neighborhood had one band that he or she supported. People would walk around with patches all over their clothes of whatever band they liked and would get into physical fights with people that didn’t support the same band. I remember being jealous about this because I didn’t have ONE band that really stood out over all the others that I liked. That all changed five minutes after listening to this album. From their music, to their interviews, and all the way down to their clothes everything about The Black Keys just feel so cool. Their whole attitude was “This is who we are and what we like, take it or leave it.”

The band consists of Patrick Carney on drums and Dan Auerbach on guitar. These two have created a back to basics rock formula that is simplistic in concept, but impressive upon hearing. Every review I have ever seen brings up a comparison of The Black Keys with The White Stripes. Both are drum/guitar duos with their roots in the blues. However in my humble opinion these two bands have an entirely different sound and style. Both are quite good, just different, but I digress… 

The Black Keys standard song approach is start with a strong blues style riff and build on it throughout the song.  The guitar sound is usually in your face with a lot of “crunch” coming through the amp. The gold standard of a Key’s song is the undeniable Black Key’s break. This is usually done by adding a good helping of fuzz tone to the guitar and usually a little jam session between the guitar and drums with little or no vocals. Every song I listen to I can see Dan stepping on the guitar peddle and then falling backwards into a thunderous uproar of guitar rock heaven with some great back and forth between the drums and guitar.

Rubber Factory contains some quintessential Black Key songs such as “10 A.M. Automatic” and “Girl Is On My Mind.”  These songs just have an unrelenting drive that dive into the song breaks that somehow find even more energy. At times the album slows down and shows the unbelievable diversity that they have. Some examples of the more mellow tracks include “The Lengths” and the Ray Davies cover of “Act Nice and Gentle.” Many bands excel in either upbeat rock or the more mellow side. The Black Keys can play either brilliantly. 

My favorite song of the album without a doubt is “Stack Shot Billy.” In my opinion it is the best blues cover I have ever heard. It is a blues song and still retains the quintessential Black Keys sound. Based off of the traditional “Stagger Lee” song about a “Stag” Lee Shelton shooting Billy Lyons. It really showcases the essence of what The Black Keys are all about. Take a blues song and turn it into something new without losing the essence of what your influence is all about. Another great blues cover on this album is “Grown So Ugly” by Robert Pete Williams. These covers aren’t a mimic of the originals, they are reinterpretations. Which is really what a cover should be because who wants to hear someone else try to sound exactly like the original.

After Rubber Factory, The Black Keys began to see more and more success with each album. There are some “purists” who feel that the later albums have become too commercial. The later albums do appeal to a wider audience and tend to have a more catchy sound. If you start with their first album and worked your way through their discography you can see a slow progression to more emphasis on developing the later albums in the studio. It is a very similar experience to listening to The Beatles. Beginning with something so raw and then developing it into something much more refined. Each album has managed to retain their distinctive sound. As long as I can listen to a 10 second clip and immediately identify who I am listening to, I will always remain a fan of The Black Keys (and fight anyone who feels different).

– Jay Kretchmar, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA

Track Listing

All songs written and composed by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney except where noted.

  1. “When the Lights Go Out” 3:23
  2. “10 A.M. Automatic” 2:59
  3. “Just Couldn’t Tie Me Down” 2:57
  4. “All Hands Against His Own” 3:16
  5. “The Desperate Man” 3:54
  6. “Girl Is On My Mind” 3:28
  7. “The Lengths” 4:54
  8. “Grown So Ugly” (R.P. Williams) 2:27
  9. “Stack Shot Billy” 3:21
  10. “Act Nice and Gentle” (Ray Davies) 2:41
  11. “Aeroplane Blues” 2:50
  12. “Keep Me” 2:52
  13. “‘Till I Get My Way” 2:31

Personnel

  • Dan Auerbach – guitars, fiddle, lap steel, singing, hand claps
  • Patrick Carney – drums, percussion, hand claps

 Related Links

Give Rubber Factory a listen. This is a playlist that contains 13 songs.

Posted by Larry Carta


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