Thursday, September 23, 2004
THE BLACK KEYS
Rubber Factory | Epitaph Records
On their last album, 2003’s Thickfreakness, The Black Keys sounded like a couple of grizzled, soulful bluesman living in a corrugated metal shack down a dirt road from R.L. Burnside. The truth of the matter was that The Black Keys were a couple of college-aged white guys from Akron, Ohio.
Their latest release, Rubber Factory, comes closer to what listeners might expect from a couple of mid-western college dropouts than Thickfreakness. Songs like the superb “10 A.M. Automatic” and less effective numbers like “All Hands Against His Own” have more of a straight rock sound.
Ironically, the album’s two high points are covers: a swinging version of The Kink’s “Act Nice and Gentle” and an explosive take on “Grown So Ugly” by Robert Pete Williams, a bluesman who was recorded in the ‘50s while serving a term in a Louisiana prison for murder.
Though there are times when the album spins its wheels, Rubber Factory is definitely worth a drive. (ST)
JAKE BRENNAN AND THE CONFIDENCE MEN
Love and Bombs | Yeproc Records
This is as odd a package as has been manufactured in this weird little year: An unknown bar band’s debut split into two discs, a six-song EP and a seven-track DVD. One wonders why the latter? DVD’s enhance the value of a known-commodity’s output (and can’t be downloaded as easily, yet anyway), why this feature?
One would assume it’s to market this photogenic roots artist as an up-and-comer. With his impeccable pedigree (father Dennis is a New England blues legend) and his famous producer (Paul Kolderie of Hole and Dinosaur Jr. fame), you’d reckon this has to be something special. In reality, it’s hit or miss. Being immersed in tradition isn’t the problem here, but so-so material and a complete refusal to do anything out of the ordinary is. Gruff voiced, backed with a standard-issue faux Watts/Wyman rhythm section, kinda Nashvillian steelish licks, and not a single original lyric outside the Ian Hunter cover on the DVD, there isn’t that much to recommend this, unless you live and breathe the good ole good ole.
In other words, it’s “NPR Rock.” Love it or leave it, the lad fits right into the mold. This release is for genre-fans and nobody else. (JA)
HOT WATER MUSIC
The New What Next | Epitaph Records
Six discs into their career and these guys have gotten sharper, meaner and better incrementally with every offering. Maybe the best proponent of the hard-edged version of sorta-pop punk, HWM is Bad Religion without the pride in their showy harmonies, Social D without the honky-tonkin’ premise, or the New Bomb Turks with a minor key fetish and much better material.
Driving and brutal, it doesn’t get much better than the keynoting “Poison,” which features the same four chord cadence made famous in Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything,” but instead of that band’s wry humor, HWM is all spew and sputter and fury. Unlike their garage-y brethren, they are tight and muscular and waste no notes, even as the beats slacken a little, the tension never does. This is punk rock by people that breathe the music in and out like it’s the only oxygen they’ll ever need. A must. (JA)