The Black Keys – Brothers (Nonesuch/Universal)

It’s easy to appreciate the grain in the sound The Black Keys manage to extract on this, the duo’s latest piece of arch art-blues. That, and the beautifully wonky lumbering grooves that they construct.

Brothers is an album of many very short tracks, most of which have a delicious sound, but few of which evolve into songs worth deliberating over, worth getting to know. That makes it a bit of a dweeb-fest, the sort of record that musical trainspotters fetishize, rather than a good album per se.

Fans won’t be disappointed, but as much as I respect the work of musical alchemists trying to create mutant strains that never existed in real time (in this case a canny combo of blues, rock and funk), it’s hard to get too excited without tracks that have a sense of being, of being on a journey, with some place to go.

Much has been made of the fact that this was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals studio, but it’s not the characteristic warmth of the studio’s classic productions that comes through. Instead, theirs is an often dark, psychedelic groove that writhes around in the trails left by early Funkadelic, mixes it with a bit of Blue Cheer power-chording, and a dollop of Blaxploitation musical cinema.

Brothers can be enjoyed on its own terms, but those terms are limited. GARY STEEL

Sound = 4

Music = 3

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