Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #7: "Lonely Boy" -- The Black Keys

We got a taste of Danger Mouse-produced Black Keys last year with Brothers lead single "Tighten Up," which found the band sounding its most polished yet, for better or for worse. With 2011's El Camino, the producer stepped into the mixing booth for the duration of the record -- and again, for better or for worse. While some found the band's progression to be altogether appealing and the sign of a band coming into its own as an act, others pined for the straightforward blues rock of the band's earlier releases.

"Lonely Boy," the first song released from the new record, is interesting in that it's possibly the least retro song the band has released. And that's saying a lot, because if this were most other artists, we'd be considering this a throwback affair. But with "Lonely Boy" in the Black Keys' case, the band is sounding its most with-the-times.

Make no mistake, though -- this is not necessarily a bad thing. Whatever one's opinions on the new record, it's difficult to deny the allure of "Lonely Boy." It begins with one of 2011's best riffs -- a garage-y lick, the bottom of which drops out almost instantaneously before it rises again, without warning. Pat Carney's drumming is a good time here, too -- very rarely these days (or ever, really) do we find a drummer that keeps time basically only with the snare and bass (sans cymbal), but that's exactly what he does on the verse. What results is a clattering rhythm that runs wild beneath Dan Auerbach's polished riffing.

"I've got a love that keeps me waiting," sings Auerbach on the chorus, joined by a smattering of backing vocalists. It's tough not to pay attention to him -- besides the clever lyrical content, the chorus is one of the catchiest you'll find in rock all year.

"Lonely Boy" proved to mainstream artists what seasoned veteran fans of the band have known for quite some time -- that The Black Keys are no fluke band trapped in olden times. Instead, their status as one of the biggest American rock bands of the day was cemented.

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