Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid Four stars out of five
The Black Keys are dead. Long live the Black Keys! Dan Auerbach, lead singer and guitarist of the Ohio-based heavy blues rock outfit, has released a solo effort that sounds suspiciously like an evolution of the Black Keys. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, considering that band consisted of Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney. As much as I appreciate a good drummer and recognize their absolute rhythmic necessity, they very rarely provide the defining sound of a band. So, forgive me, Mr. Carney, for what I am about to say, but it is clear that the Black Keys were really the Dan Auerbach show. (Carney has formed a new band, the appropriately-labeled Drummer, which I’m anxious to give a spin).
Through five studio albums, the Black Keys perfected a spare but loud sound that is equal parts Robert Johnson and Led Zeppelin. Auerbach has carried these elements over into his solo debut, tweaking the formula here and there, turning the volume down on some (but not all) tracks, swapping some power chords for a gentler, more lush sound that opens up room for a little experimentation now and then.
The lusty funk of “I Want Some More” (and I don’t need to tell you what he wants more of) gives way to a very cool oscillating guitar riff in “Heartbroken, In Disrepair,” bringing to mind The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now” without actually sounding anything like the Smiths. Well, except for the self-lacerating lyrics, that is. Befitting the blues, most of these songs are haunted by pain, loss and betrayal, typified by the paranoia in the slow-burning “When I Left the Room” and the implicit threat of violence in “Keep It Hid”: “They’ll never find what they’re looking for / ’Cause you’re my tight-lipped queen.”
The quieter, more introspective tunes like “Trouble Weighs a Ton,” “When the Night Comes” and “Goin’ Home” really round out this disk, and frankly, there’s not a clunker in the lot. Duo or solo, Dan Auerbach is a singular talent who should have a place in any music collection.