What hath White Stripes wrought? Suddenly, blues duos are everywhere, which is certainly better than when blues "deconstructionists" (it's still unclear what they even are) were everywhere. The most buzzed-about duo, the Black Keys, up the ante over their competition from both camps by actually demonstrating a decent feel for bedrock blues. Not that they're purists — there's a reason why drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist/fiddler/vocalist Dan Auerbach wear their industrial hometown of Akron, Ohio, on their sleeves as proudly as Devo did. That's most apparent on the metallic riff-raunch of "10 A.M. Automatic," especially when Auerbach unleashes distortion and fuzztone that'd rattle Ike Turner's fillings.
Even when they're playing the most conventional blues, the Black Keys amp it up. But they're capable of doing so without sacrificing nuance on songs like "Girl Is on My Mind," and Carney swings almost as hard as he thumps on the opening "When the Lights Go Out." "The Lengths" is about as pastoral as they get, while "Act Nice and Gentle" is affectingly lyrical, and their remake of Robert Pete Williams 'great "Grown So Ugly" is as earthy as some of Captain Beefheart's blues interpretations.
Auerbach is no great shakes as a singer, but does the best he can with the limited voice he has to work with. Purists may be repelled, but this pair offers as much meat, in its own way, as most of the purist revivalist bands, and a lot more surprise.