Remember when The Black Keys used to be minimal? Those simpler days are clearly in the rear view. Starting with 2008’s Attack & Release, which saw the duo (vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach, drummer Patrick Carney) working with alt-soul prodigy/producer Danger Mouse, The Black Keys have been gradually ratcheting up the overdubs, experimenting with more colorful, expansive arrangements, and augmenting their still in-tact ghostly blues template with layers of instrumentation.
“Howlin’ for You”, from 2010’s Brothers, is the band at its most maximal. When it first came blaring through my speakers, I could have sworn someone had slipped me a download of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” by mistake—a clunky, spirited drumbeat shakes hands with a standard blues riff (played on an electric guitar as trebly as a dog whistle).
In addition to that frilly luxury known as “bass” (Who knew?), Auerbach and Carney outfit their skeletal blues with handclaps, a secondary tremelo guitar, and a newfound production spunk.
It almost feels as if the band, unburdened from their minimalist sensibilities, decided to swing for the fences—just to see what it felt like. There’s still much to be said for their stripped-down origins (Perhaps no other Black Keys track provides as much of a core-shaking as their three-chord masterpiece “10 AM Automatic”), but it’s definitely a lot of fun hearing the typically anti-indulgent duo satisfy their sweet tooth for exploration.