Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Black Keys - Magic Potion (Nonesuch)



Pop Matters
Writer: Jason MacNeil

“The comparisons to a certain Meg and Jack have been in abundance since the Black Keys started, but whereas the White Stripes seem to go for big rock bombast, the Black Keys rely on a steady, surefire groove that hits you in the gut.”

* The word “seem” shows the writer isn’t familiar with the subject. Therefore, he shouldn’t be using the comparison. The point is lost in his ignorance. However, since he went into it…

“Although some people will be pissed off that the Black Keys haven’t expanded on their sound by adding a bassist, a keyboardist, or zither player, Auerbach and Carney have not strayed from the plot they started with The Big Come Up.”

* Yes, people want growth and progression out of artists by the time they reach their fourth album. Unlike the aforementioned White Stripes, who have expanded their sound with their limitations as a duo, The Black Keys have, according to the reviewer, rehashed the same “blues rock” that they started with.

Overall:
The review is just a rundown of what the writer thinks he hears on each song, with no real insight on the type of music being produced for the mass of white kids that don’t know anyone else on the Keys’ former label, Fat Possum (i.e. Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside).

Review Rating: 52%

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My Old Kentucky Blog

“It's right in line with Keys' albums of the past and just as good. It's do-it-yourself-lo-fi-hard-driving-blues-rock.”

* Direct statements and informative.

Overall:
It’s a short informative review and has the basics. There’s no journey into meaning or songs. It’s just a fan telling other fans. It does its job.

Review Rating: 76%

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The Onion AV Club
Writer: Keith Phipps

“That's disappointing only because they've played this sort of music before. Then again, they've rarely played it better.”

* Contradiction. The criticism is lost. Is it disappointing because it’s the same old Black Keys? Or is it fulfilling because they’ve gotten better?

“Earlier this year, The Black Keys released the EP Chulahoma, which ended with a phone message of praise from Junior Kimbrough's wife. Magic Potion plays like the album-length thank-you for that encouragement.”

* Although a good segue, he leaves his point to be qualified by Junior Kimbrough’s wife. I’m sure it was a great compliment to The Black Keys, but it means nothing in a critique besides it being an interesting side note.

Overall:
Not a bad review. Well-written and short. However, there’s confusion as to whether he likes it because he’s a fan or if he’d recommend it to the reader (as opposed to other releases that are said to sound similar).

Review Rating: 68%

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Pitchfork
Writer: Jason Crock

“They whip up everything they can between just the two of them, Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney, but what they work up this time isn't a sweat-- it's restraint. On Magic Potion, the pleasures are coyer and the variations much more subtle from riff to riff, song to song. In other words, it's not the record I want to hear from the Black Keys.”

* Who gives a shit what YOU want to hear? Get over yourself and think of the overall audience…who you’re supposed to be writing for.

Magic Potion is a record where overwhelming competence meets measured restraint, but for me, sacrilege trumps sincerity, and I'd rather hear tuneful blasphemy than a tasteful snoozer of an album. Shit, give me Blueshammer any day.”

* If the writer doesn’t write with only himself in mind, this is an acceptable conclusion to the review.

Overall:
Too many words for what he wanted to say. The uncertainty in the writer’s voice and his lack of perspective on blues gives the reader the idea that he was assigned this review. He wants to hear a pop version of blues, and The Black Keys are somehow not that. Too many assumptions, all the focus is on himself, and an unavoidable contradiction takes away any credibility from this review, even though the 6.0 rating sounds objective.

Review Rating: 46%

-----------------------------------

Conclusion From Reviews:
Judging by the reviews, there is no depth, no thought-provoking ideas, and no ground breaking elements on this release. If you’re already a fan of The Black Keys, you will like this album. If you’re not, the consensus is that Magic Potion doesn’t divert from the Keys’ sound, so you probably won’t be a fan after this one either. For those being introduced, there is nothing on which to base a decision to go and listen. The reviewers failed to entice or repel. You’re on your own. You’ll just have to sample and decide for yourself.

Supplement:
Contemporary blues rock is alive in the independent world, but for whatever reason, people only hear about The Black Keys and The White Stripes, the latter of which is always mistakenly placed in this subgenre because they occasionally record a bluesy track, while the former focuses primarily on the blues. For example, it would be like paralleling John Mayall to Led Zeppelin. Most blues-based rock outfits tend to do better in Europe than in the U.S., but it does not mean there is a shortage of them in North America.

Some other contemporary blues rock counterparts include T. Model Ford, Pearlene, Skip Jensen, and Soledad Brothers. The aforementioned R.L. Burnside would definitely be in this category, but he sadly passed last year. Mr. Airplane Man and the Porch Ghouls can be placed here as well, but Mr. Airplane Man’s latest effort shows a departure from their first three releases and the Porch Ghouls are now defunct.

Found Black Keys Tracks:
Black Door
The Flame
Strange Desire
Give Your Heart Away
Your Touch

Additional Listening:
Mr. Airplane Man - Uptight
White Stripes - Stop Breaking Down
Porch Ghouls - Girl on the Road (Ford Fairlane)
Soledad Brothers - Break'em On Down
Skip Jensen - Abscond
R.L. Burnside - Snake Drive

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