Danger Mouse is a good producer. Or at least we like the accents and aesthetic he brings to his projects. His dreamy sheen saves much of the mediocre Odd Couple, for instance. In general, there’s better songwriting on the Black Keys fifth album, and follow up to 2006′s Magic Potion, Attack & Release, but the woozy choirs, ghostly keys, and spectral whirls he adds to Daniel Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s blues rock, pushes the Akron duo into engaging new directions. Remember, these dudes didn’t always record in official studios. Then again, good blues players don’t need to…

There is plenty of hot rock on Attack — see the Stripes-y “Remember When (Side B)” — but DM’s deft input is most felt on the slow, grinding tunes like “Lies” or the flanging, whistling “Remember When (Side A).” Or, have you heard the hand-clappy, guitar riffing “Strange Times”? There’s an explosive video for it.

See, it’s during the breakdown that you get a sense of how DM added a deeper atmosphere to the sound. Likewise, we already mentioned strutting album standout “Psychotic Girl“’s wobbling, oozing rhythmic cushion that flairs beneath slide guitars, twangy banjo, and achy, cavernous vocals. Instrumentally, it sounds like early Beck — which makes us curious about what Danger Mouse will do on that new Beck album. The ’70s pastoral flute/fife/fawn-y woodwind overlapping with guitar feedback and crunch in “Same Old Thing” is a thing of beauty. That ice/fuzz overlap happens on the slide-guitaring of “Oceans & Streams,” too, which also had a sound that hits like an underwater radar. The Mouse has certain go-to/signature accents. He’s fond of this sort of Snoop Dogg organ/saw/synth quaver that shows up on a few tracks.

Besides Danger Mouse, other guests include guitarist Marc Ribot, Patrick’s uncle Ralph Carney (who, along with Ribot, has played in Tom Waits’ band), and youngster bluegrass singer Jessica Lea Mayfield, who sounds great (but mixed low) on the ballad-y album closer “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be.” It’s a total grand-finale torch song.

All said, and all Danger Mouse production analyzed to hell, there are songs that pass by unnoticed, or drag in the wrong ways (yeah, sometimes dragging is right), but by and large, Attack & Release is a solid effort, without much fat to trim: It sounds great, the dust kickers hit sharply, and the ballads have a spooky vibe that makes ’em both memorable and affecting.

Attack & Release is out 4/1 on Nonesuch.

Comments (14)
  1. Capt Colours  |   Posted on Mar 21st, 2008 0

    Strange Times sounds like Ian Astbury fronting the White Stripes …. poor execution guys.

  2. I like this album, it’s one of my favourites of the year so far. Took me 4 or 5 listens to get into it properly though, due to the contrast between it and their previous work. “So He Won’t Break” is excellent.

  3. i wish they would come out with something as consistent and raw as thickfreakness was. this album has a few good songs but they just aren’t as strong with the droney, slow stuff. i was expecting a little more life in it, especially since dangermouse had a hand.

  4. Sweet video.
    “If you run, you’re done…”

  5. jim  |   Posted on Mar 22nd, 2008 0

    That typeface and style looks an awful lot like what The Laureates use on their website and their last record:

    http://www.laureatesmusic.com

  6. charlie  |   Posted on Mar 23rd, 2008 0

    jesus no one else will say it? the black KEYS idiot, not the black lips.

  7. gb  |   Posted on Mar 23rd, 2008 0

    the design work you compared the keys cover is not even in the same ballpark. That stuff looks cheap and uninspired.

  8. brian h  |   Posted on Mar 23rd, 2008 0

    Ian Astbury is laughably far off, as far as descriptions go.

    Strange Times is a solid Black Keys album, to the point where I don’t recognize much of a contrast between this latest work and anything from before. Danger Mouse opened the sound up a bit more and not much else. Still solid riffs and heartbreak.

    “Psychotic Girl” and “Lies” tie together like a bow.

  9. Shockadow  |   Posted on Mar 24th, 2008 0

    Don’t forget, losers, these songs were written by the BKs for Ike Turner to record for his return album. When penned, they were for another entity entirely. After his passing, the songs were recorded so as not to lose them in an abyss of dead rock stars. I think it sounds great. You are mostly haters here anyway so… Fuckin’ Ian Astbury.. What a joke.

  10. JAck  |   Posted on Mar 24th, 2008 0

    The is TBK’s best album to date, hands down. What’s truly laughable is the comparison to the white stripes. Jack and meg couldn’t touch these guys live on a good day.

    • drgoop  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2008 0

      Disagree. I can’t imagine anyone who has seen Jack White live would ever say that. He’s in a league of his own when it comes to live performance.

  11. Dwil  |   Posted on Mar 24th, 2008 0

    This is a black keys album, not a danger mouse album. why isn’t there any talk about the member’s of the band’s contributions to their own album? geez.

  12. Mouse did to the black keys what walla did to the decemberists. he took their soul. awful record.

    • msigur  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2008 0

      danger mouse and the black keys are a match made in herculean heaven
      walla and the decemberists are women compared to the burly men in the black keys

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