The Black Keys “Rubber Factory” 2004. Fat Possum Records. Yesterday, April 15th, was Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney’s birthday (b. 1980). Rubber Factory is my favorite Keys album, or at least the one I find myself listening to the most. It’s pretty chill lo-fi garage blues with a backyard summer evening vibe. They recorded it in an abandoned General Tire factory in Akron, Ohio (instead of Carney’s basement like their first two records) and produced the album themselves with a mixing console they bought from Loverboy’s sound technician. Rubber Factory reached #143 on the charts, with three singles: “10 A.M. Automatic” (which hit #66 in the UK), “’Till I Get My Way” (#62 in the UK) and “Girl Is On My Mind” (also #62 in the UK).
Allmusic says about Rubber Factory: [The Black Keys] know that sound matters, not just how a band plays but how a band is recorded, and that blues sounds better when it’s unvarnished, which is why each of their records feels more like a real blues album than anything cut since the ‘60s. But they’re not revivalists, either. They’ve absorbed the language of classic rock and the sensibility of indie rock – they’re turning familiar sounds into something nervy and fresh, music that builds on the past yet lives fearlessly in the moment. On a sheer gut level, they’re intoxicating and that alone would be enough to make Rubber Factory a strong listen, but what makes it transcendent is that [Dan] Auerbach has developed into such a fine songwriter. His songs have enough melodic and lyrical twists to make it seem like he’s breaking rules, but his trick is that he’s doing this within traditional blues-rock structures. He’s not just reinvigorating a familiar form, he’s doing it without a lick of pretension; it never seems as if the songs were written, but that they’ve always existed and have just been discovered, which is true of any great blues song. Carney gives these songs the production they deserve – some tunes are dense and heavy with guitars, others are spacious and haunting – and the result is the most exciting and best rock & roll record of 2004.
I really love this entire album, but my top tracks are the vaguely sinister “When the Lights Go Out,” the ass-shaking “10 A.M. Automatic,” the funky, groovin’ “All Hands Against His Own,” swaggering “The Desperate Man,” the shredding cover of Robert Pete Williams’ narrative and bluesy “Grown So Ugly” (Williams was discovered while in prison serving a life sentence for murder; Captain Beefheart also recorded the track in 1967), the sorrowful and cautionary tale of “Stack Shot Billy” and the 60′s garagey “’Till I Get My Way.” The only track I’m not overly crazy about is the cover of The Kinks “Act Nice and Gentle.” (I love The Kinks, too, but this song is really hokey).
Finally, if you’re on Instagram, follow Patrick Carney. His feed is hilarious! I especially enjoyed the long-running series he had a year or so ago with weird and disgusting food from the 50′s and 60′s which involved a lot of creative jello concoctions.