- 13 May 22
Game Of Two Halves
Last year’s Delta Kream was a smart move. Go back and plug in to the sources the made you want to tog out in the first place; the Mississippi Hill Country blues of R.L. Burnside and the equally-mighty Junior Kimbrough. It was The Black Keys’ best record in a while, and boded well for the next one.
Dropout Boogie – good title – starts off well enough; head-nodding single ‘Wild Child’ shares some DNA with ‘Lonely Boy’, although it’s just not quite as good, and that’s the general problem. The ever-so-slightly lacklustre - in places - song writing reminds you of past triumphs but doesn’t match them. Tracks like 'It Ain't Over', 'For The Love Of Money', and 'Happiness' are fine in their way but The Keys have done this kind of thing better before. ‘Burn The Damn Thing Down’ is a good case in point. The melody faintly recalls The Beatle’s ‘Ballad Of John And Yoko’ and the music is a sort of T.Rex/Creedence hybrid, which sounds good on paper but misses something in the execution. If you'll excuse the pun, they especially drop the ball on by-the-numbers-riffola-and-floor-tom-thumping, potentially money-spinning – I presume that was the plan – sports anthem ‘Your Team Is Looking Good’. ‘We Are The Champions’ it is not.
On the other hand, ‘Good Love’, featuring ZZ Top man Billy F. Gibbons’ guitar, cooks a tasty gumbo of percussion, organ, and humming tube amps, although you do feel this was edited down from a glorious, twenty-minute long, freak-out where Gibbons and Auerbach duke it out over the rattling, vintage gear. Despite, or maybe because of, the blatant borrowing of the ‘Midnight Rider’ (Allmans, Willie Nelson, Paul Davidson) riff, ‘Baby I’m Coming Home’ gets a worthwhile groove going, in two different tempos, one of which sounds like a train coming round a bend, and the closing ‘Didn’t I Love You’ cops some of that Kimbrough/Burnside feel they went looking for last time out and filters it through a hungover and pissed off Creedence/ZZ Top hybrid, which is always a good move.
Although it's more than most bands can manage, Dropout Boogie is probably closer to a decent EP than a satisfying album; they're throwing some nice shapes but The Black Keys are boogieing on the spot rather than dancing forward.