Grade: 91% (A-)
2008 doesn't seem like it was really that long ago. Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold sported his grizzly northwestern beard while his band climbed into the indie buzzband sphere with it's self-titled debut. Jim James (AKA Yim Yames) of My Morning Jacket rocked the southern guitar slasher look with his long mane and beard as his band's funkiest album to date gained Top 10 Album of the Year recognition. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver used his facial hair to stay warm in the Wisconsin winter as his self-released debut blew up on the internet. And Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys went above the rest, streaming his full head of hair down to his shoulders alongside his biker style beard as if his band's album Attack & Release didn't posterize him as a badass enough. Each band has since released a follow up to their 2008 LP's in the past year, with the Black Keys' El Camino coming this December after 2010's Grammy Winning Brothers. Auerbach's face however, is the only one completely shaven.
What does his smooth face mean about his music? Apparently nothing. Auerbach continues to sing lyrics of a bleeding heart and still manages to be the complete badass that he is on the guitar, just as he was with a full beard back in '08. The straightforward and direct lyrics overdubbed with classic TBK vocal distortions on "Lonely Boy" refer one back to some of their earlier work. The opening hazy guitar reverb is strikingly familiar to that of the title track of their earlier Thickfreakness. This leads into an opening guitar riff that sounds as if it was taken off of a Limp Bizkit album which offers an opening for Patrick Carney's simplest and freshest drum kit opening to date. Funky guitar riffs continue as Auerbach jumps up a key to a higher note leading into the increasingly distorted chorus with backing vocals. This is back to the stripped down, in your face, drum/guitar action that we know The Black Keys can punch you with. The beard is back, figuratively, and maybe realistically. Let this song kick your ass a couple of times before you figure it out.
The Black Keys' newest LP El Camino is out December 6th. Pre-order it at the website wannabuyavan.com and check out their preview video for the album below.
"Lonely Boy" will be released as a single along with another new track called "Run Right Back" on Record Store Day: Black Friday (November 25th). Check out the video for "Lonely Boy" here.