On their fifth album, the duo’s swamp-rock style gets a little sophistication and comes out clean. On Attack & Release, pianos, banjos, and other slick treatments get into the mix and send The Black Keys on a more ambitious trajectory. It’s more entertaining and stimulating than previous efforts on some levels, and doesn’t abandon the band’s signature grungy blues sound.
With a big distance between the high & low points on Attack & Release, the duo pushes their envelope in both directions. Softer songs like the opener “All I Ever Wanted” and “Remember When (Side A)” give the album a velvety cushion while heavier tracks like “I Got Mine” have a mature sense of rocking-out — more than just for the sake of rocking out. Melodies actually drive Attack & Release more than the band’s typical fury, and it’s impressive to absorb as a whole.
Singer Dan Auerbach’s trademark drawl hits its usual mark throughout Attack & Release, but he also gets a little out of his element – in a positive way. “Psychotic Girl” is a haunting, dark track with his twang fitting into the cool, creepy atmosphere. “So He Won’t Break” features Auerbach at his most melodic, but any way he cuts a vocal track, it’s going to be attention-grabbing.
With so much higher design on the album, Attack & Release is a baby step towards an opus. It’s well-developed, inventive without sacrifice, and always showcases the band’s strengths.