Dropout Boogie

The Black Keys

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Dropout Boogie Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Dropout Boogie follows quickly on the heels of Delta Kream, the 2021 blues covers album by the Black Keys, which itself wasn't far removed from Let's Rock, the 2019 LP that announced their return to action after a half-decade hiatus. Such a flurry of activity is not uncommon for either member of the duo, whether together or apart, yet it does suggest guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have revived the spark that waned somewhere in the mid-2010s. Certainly, Dropout Boogie feels open and lively in a way the Black Keys haven't in a while. Maintaining the lean, efficient contours of Let's Rock -- once again, nearly all of the songs clock in well under four minutes -- the Black Keys jam a bunch of sounds and ideas into these tight spaces, finding fresh spins on their blues boogie, throwback soul, retro-pop, and arena psychedelia. The band also have found space for a number of collaborations, too, inviting ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons to lend his signature snarl on "Good Love" and enlisting Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound and Angelo Petraglia of Kings of Leon to round out "Wild Child." Ironically, "Wild Child" is one of the few songs that feels relatively self-contained on Dropout Boogie, as if they were consciously channeling the spirit of "Lonely Boy." Elsewhere, the Black Keys have figured out ways to open up their trademarks, such as when the Delta shuffle of "For the Love of Money" gives way to swirling vocal harmonies, or how "Baby I'm Coming Home" flips a nod to the Allman Brothers Band's "Midnight Rider" into AOR territory, or how the mellow groove on "How Long" gets accentuated by gently psychedelic flair. As the record swiftly spins through these production and melodic hooks, it gives the impression of a jukebox filled with a bunch of excavated gems, and that's not a bad comfort zone for the Black Keys at all.

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