Obsess Much? : The Black Keys, Magic Potion

Obsess Much? is a new feature wherein I will do what I do best, the very thing that led me to start this blog in the first place: completely fixate on one artist/album/genre/enclave/whatever and talk on and on and on about it, sharing information and opinions with anyone in shouting distance, whether they like it or not.

You’re loving it already, right?

So whomever/whatever I’m obsessing on, whether a new artist or an act who has been around for a while or a band who aren’t even together anymore, I will share my enthusiasm in unnecessarily great detail.

Regular readers may have noticed that, since the Black Keys posted their new song “Tighten Up” from their forthcoming album Brothers on their MySpace page, I have been hardcore about all things coming from these two, sharp Akron boys. As an Ohioan who seems to be subconsciously drawn to acts from Ohio, I have been listening to and loving the Black Keys for a long time, but it is only with this current wave of fixation that I have nearly completed my Black Keys collection (Brothers is on pre-order in both the vinyl and deluxe CD editions, so I just have to obtain Feel Good Together, the album from Pat Carney’s side project, Drummer). The last album I picked up was Magic Potion.

I had gathered that MP was not a well-received album – at least not with critics – and I let that scare me off of picking it up for a while. Now that I have it and have listened to it repeatedly (approximately 15 times this past weekend – these guys have a knack for making music I want to listen to over and over immediately), I can’t say I understand why. It is hot. In terms of the music, it is the sexiest album they’ve made so far. Lyrically, it was the beginning of a personal rawness that continued on their next album, Attack and Release. “The Flame” may be the best song about being hurt again and again until one’s heart grows numb ever written.

Reading some of the lukewarm reviews from its release, I think the problem reviewers had with it was the classic “Oh no! It’s different from what they’ve done before!” issue because Magic Potion was the album where they began to evolve their sound beyond the blues, the sound that makes Attack and Release my favorite album of theirs so far. And, too, I think critics had a problem with the tempo of MP being slower – there aren’t as man foot-stompers as on the other albums, but I think the evidence within the songs (and backed up by the fact that Dan’s list of thank-yous in the liner notes do not, for the first time, include a certain female name that had been included on all previous albums) points to this being the result of the break-up of a long-term relationship. You’re just not going to make a big-rockin’ album when your years-long relationship has disintegrated.

Of course, there is also the problem that self-proclaimed music critics tend to focus on the wrong aspects of music and/or are dumb. Note this typically what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you line from Pitchfork’s review: ‘There’s very little spark to early sequenced numbers “Your Touch”[…]’ I’m sorry, what? Are we thinking of the same song here, dude, because, I don’t know about anyone else, but that song has always eaten my head with its awesomocity. (The review also dismisses “Strange Desire” for rhyming “desire” with “fire”. This is not uncommon for a Pitchfork review, but it still amazes me when they pull out that kind of crap.)

So, Magic Potion: don’t believe the anti-hype.


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