The Black Keys 

Rubber Factory

Find a review of the Black Keys' 2003 disc Thickfreakness, and you have a 20 percent chance of reading how it was recorded in a basement, a 60 percent chance of inhaling the reviewer's astonishment that two white guys in their early twenties can electrify the blues so convincingly, and a 100 percent chance that the pair will be compared to the White Stripes.

Well, the band's makeshift studio has moved from the subterranean to the second floor of an abandoned rubber factory (these guys are, after all, from Akron, Ohio) with no loss of low-end angst. "10 A.M. Automatic" bends and moans like a young Ron Wood after dropping his allowance on Bo Diddley records. The marble-jawed front-porch proclamation "When the Lights Go Out" (You know what the sun's all about/When the lights go out) is as spooky as a Blair Witch night in Mississippi. And the surprising fire-up-your-lighter-for-the-encore ballad "The Lengths" (Tell me where you're going/Or what is going wrong) is as slide-heavy a single as you'll hear this year.

So do the Black Keys sound like the White Stripes? Absolutely. They're first cousins in a burgeoning family of lo-fi, blues-farmed Midwestern duos. But everything about the Keys -- from Dan Auerbach's guitar work and vocals to Pat Carney's drums -- spreads thicker and fuller, like extra-chunky peanut butter.


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