Black Keys produce ‘Attack and Release’

Justin Rodstrom

In New York City the other day, I made a stop in Union Square’s Virgin Megastore to check out the new releases.

First thing I saw as I made my way through the crowd was Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney staring me dead in the face on the cover of the full-sized vinyl LP from The Black Keys, “Attack & Release.”

I looked around at the hundreds of people crowing around the store in a moment of disbelief, then quickly snapped up a copy of my coveted prize before anyone else might notice the utter gold right in their midst.

I happily plunked down the $20 it cost for the album, which not only came with jumbo-sized artwork and a full page of handwritten lyrics, but also included the bonus incentive of the entire album on CD as well.

What a breath of fresh air “Attack & Release” brings for the crowned princes of Akron, Ohio. Producer Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley fame, has whipped this garage band into shape and put them on the map.

The album pulses with the same hellhound blues we know and love from the duo, but it bounces with a new life thanks to lush, deranged church-esque backing harmonies, twangy banjo lines and hammering piano to fill out the spaces in between the moans of Auerbach’s guitar and the pounding skins of Carney’s drum kit.

Top tracks include: “I Got Mine,” “Strange Times,” “Remember When (Side A & B)” and “Oceans & Streams.”

I recently caught up with Carney, as the band was on its way to a show in Denver.

The tour bus was loaded with five of his close buddies, all of whom could be heard joking, gibing and hollering throughout our loose, laidback conversation about the new album and the subsequent tour.

Tell me about some fun venues where you grew up in Akron.

Well, there’s not a lot there. The Matinee is actually a really cool place; it’s pretty new.

We used to play a lot at this place called The Lime Spider.

I noticed a lot of intricacy in this album that wasn’t necessarily there before- banjo, keyboards, backing vocals. Have you guys figured out how that is going to translate in the live show?

Well, a bunch of the songs were written before we got in studio.

But as for the other ones, we’re just not going to work in keyboards and stuff in the live show.

That’s really the only difference.

If The Black Keys could jam with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick?

I don’t even know how to answer that question. I know lately Dan’s really been into Tiny Tim – loves his guitar stuff.

I don’t know how I feel about that one though. Can I rephrase the question? Well, if I could see anybody it would be Captain Beefheart in 1968. He was amazing.

I noticed on “Attack & Release” there are a few collaborations, one being with your uncle Ralph Carney. How was it to bring him into the studio?

Oh, all the collaborations were awesome. Every time we’re in San Francisco, Ralph comes to our shows and jams with us on stage.

But having people like Mark Ribot and Jessica Lea Mayfield was really cool too.

What did Danger Mouse bring to “Attack & Release” in terms of overall direction or technique?

Brian [Danger Mouse] was really awesome to have. We bounced ideas off of him. He helped us with arrangements, rethinking our songs.

We had a lot of stuff written going into it like “All You Ever Wanted,” “Strange Times” and “Remember When (Side A),” but Brian would slow things down or ask us to take new approaches.

Take “Psychotic Girl” for instance – that song was written with a much faster tempo, but [Brian] laid down a much different rhythm for me to play to, which made it different.

The name “Attack & Release” almost sounds like it has to do with hunting. Where does the album name come from?

We just kind of thought it was a cool title. I guess it comes from audio equipment controls or something, but it sounds cool more than anything.

A lot of bands are getting into song licensing in commercials and TV shows. What is the Black Keys take on that sort of thing?

We’re for it … Unless it’s something really embarrassing or something, like an Applebees commercial. No, I mean it’s cool with us. I actually like Of Montreal’s Outback Steakhouse commercial better than I like the original song.