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POP MUSIC REVIEW

The brilliant blues of Black Keys

April 10, 2003|Dean Kuipers | Special to the Times

The Black Keys' singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach came in quoting the industrial-strength lead from Funkadelic's "Super Stupid" Tuesday at Spaceland and went out on an acid version of the Stooges' "No Fun." In between was an hour of overdriven blues-funk transcendence.

Auerbach and gangly funk drummer Patrick Carney are a twentysomething duo from Akron, Ohio, whose college-kid jam-band look and impassioned stranglehold on the blues make it clear this is neither retro hipsterism nor the post-punk tinkering of the White Stripes and company. They're not cool; they're just brilliant.

They've taken the smoldering hill-country blues of Junior Kimbrough and T-Model Ford and found the simple-but-huge Hendrix electron treatment that renders it a rock freak flag. From the Cream attack on "No Trust," with Auerbach doing that Clapton trick of doubling the sung melody on guitar, to the maximum R&B of the Sonics' "Have Love Will Travel," the pair traced the heaviest blues line through the genealogy of rock, deftly echoing "Electric Mud"-era Muddy Waters to Otis Redding and Sam & Dave to the Who to Blue Cheer.

The Black Keys provided more than enough evidence that their new second album, "thickfreakness," which came out the day of this show, should be one of the breakthrough releases of 2003.

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