Itâ€™s too facile to call the Black Keys counterparts of the White Stripes: they share several surface similarities -- their names are color-coded, they hail from the Midwest, theyâ€™re guitar-and-drum blues-rock duos -- but the Black Keys are their own distinct thing, a tougher, rougher rock band with a purist streak that never surfaces in the Stripes. But thatâ€™s not to say that the Black Keys are blues traditionalists: even on their 2002 debut, The Big Come Up, they covered the Beatlesâ€™ psychedelic classic â€œShe Said She Said,â€� indicating a fascination with sound and texture that would later take hold on such latter-day albums as 2008â€™s Attack & Release, where guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney teamed up with sonic architect Danger Mouse. In between those two records, the duo established the Black Keys as a rock & roll band with a brutal, primal force, and songwriters of considerable depth, as evidenced on such fine albums as 2003â€™s Thickfreakness and 2004â€™s Rubber Factory. Natives of Akron, Ohio, the Black Keys released their debut, The Big Come Up, in 2002, receiving strong reviews and sales, and leading to a contract with Fat Possum by the end of the year. That label released Thickfreakness, recorded in a 14-hour session, in the spring of 2003, and the Keys supported the album with an opening tour for Sleater-Kinney. The Black Keys' momentum escalated considerably with their 2004 album Rubber Factory, which not only received strong reviews but some high-profile play, including a video for â€œ10 A.M. Automaticâ€� featuring comedian David Cross. The bandâ€™s highly touted live act was documented on a 2005 DVD, released the same year as Chulahoma -- an EP of blues covers -- appeared. The Black Keys made the leap to the major labels with 2006â€™s Magic Potion, a moodier record that continued to build the groupâ€™s base. The band capitalized on that moodiness on 2008â€™s Attack & Release, whose production by Danger Mouse signaled that the Black Keys were hardly just blues-rock purists. Salvaged from sessions intended as a duet album with Ike Turner, who died before the record could be finished, the album was the Black Keys' biggest to date, debuting in the Billboard Top 15 and earning strong reviews. Following their second live DVD, the Black Keys spent 2009 on side projects, with Auerbach releasing his solo album Keep It Hid in the beginning of the year, and Carney forming the band Drummer, in which he played bass. At the end of 2009, Blackroc, a rap-rock collaboration between the band and producer Damon Dash, appeared. Brothers, released the following year, saw the Keys returning to their tough blues roots with a new grandness, earning three Grammy Awards, landing on year-end lists from NPR to Rolling Stone, and going gold. The band offered a more straight-ahead rock & roll sound with 2011's El Camino. ~ Stephen Thomas ErlewinePortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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