The Black Keys
Thickfreakness, 180G Black Vinyl LP
Thickfreakness may veer towards oppressively monolithic, but it's also equal parts sincerity and devotion, thunder and lightning, majesty and naked anger. Look upon the power of the title track, mortals, and despair! The central riff splits heaven and earth, and for a few brief minutes, commands all your attention as you fear for your very life; it's an exorcism, a catharsis. And it only gets thicker and freakier from there, lurching into the cautionary force of the too-similar "Hard Row"; like a simplified, but equally relentless version of its predecessor, the simple bluster is momentarily awe-inspiring. When Auerbach howls, "It's a hard row to hoe by yourself," the release is overwhelming.
But sure enough, the intensity of the opening combination proves impossible to maintain for long. Though the stutter-stepping percussion and racing, rise/fall soloing of "Set You Free" nearly succeeds at preserving the pummeling drive beyond all limits of human endurance, it ends up being the most purely entertaining cut on the album simply out of the necessity for respite. The body braces itself for another towering blast after being further skewered by Auerbach's nasty hooks in the opening seconds, and gets (only a little) less than that, but the relaxation is welcome. From that point on, Thickfreakness begins to run together slightly, though as mentioned earlier, not for lack of energy. -Pitchfork