Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Two heads ARE better than one

"Uncle Keith, on TV, they say that two heads are better than one, but I don't believe them...I like having one head." My nephew, Liam Serry, Aged 5 People say The Black Keys' singer/guitar player Dan Auerbach looks like Kurt Cobain. They're right, sorta, but I think Auerbach looks a lot more like my buddy Tom Pechloff of the Ottawa band Fourth (Tommy, you better learn to play guitar!) The Keys are the first of the famous trend of power two-somes* that I've actually had the chance to see in person and their blues-rock blizkreig of La Tulipe last weekend did not disappoint. One of the first thing you notice about the Akron duo is that these guys can freaking play the SNOT out of their instruments. It should be self-evident, but it bears mentioning mostly because whenever you hear people talking about duos the phrase "they sure make a whole lot of noise for only two people" tends to slip into the conversation quite quickly. Don't get me wrong, I've been as guilty of using it as anyone else, but there's an important subtlety that's lost in the "lots of noise" assessment. Namely that it also takes a lot of thought, musicianship and creatively (oh, and don't forget soul) to put compelling art into the blank spaces forced by a stripped down lineup. Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney fill the blank spaces with concussive, soul stirring rhythm. There's a call and response between the guitar and the kit that comes off as both aggressive and beautiful, like battling fireworks displays. In fact, the Keys' firm rhythmic foundation isn't built despite the lack of bass, but rather because there isn't a four-string in the middle of everything insistently announcing the debut of each measure. It's amped up porch music, rock and roll that answers the rhetorical question "What if Jimmy Hendrix had influenced Robert Johnson instead of the other way around?" If I had a beef with The Keys', it was that the set (which included choice selections from both of their Fat Possum releases and a cover of the Beatles She Said, She Said) seemed a little short. I could have watched Auerbach wring bright, hard, beautiful and dangerous melodies out of his guitar and throat all night. (*Can't we come up with some sort of rock writer shorthand to describe the two-person trend like we did with PowerTrios? Call them Blisterin' Bivalves or Two-headed Rock Monsters or something? Anyone?)
"Can't we come up with some rock writer shorthand to describe the two-person trend like we did with PowerTrios?"

Yeah sure:
"Concussion Couples"

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