The Black Keys have it all backward. Rubber Factory, the duo's last album for blues revival label Fat Possum, opened the door slightly to sounds outside the deep blues noise they'd created on previous efforts. They even covered The Kinks' "Act Nice And Gentle." Rubber Factory's follow-up, Magic Potion, released by Nonesuch as part of a campaign to go beyond modern classical music, retreats into the bluesiest depths imaginable. (Almost literally: They recorded it in the basement of drummer Patrick Carney.) That's disappointing only because they've played this sort of music before. Then again, they've rarely played it better.
Earlier this year, The Black Keys released the EP Chulahoma, which ended with a phone message of praise from Junior Kimbrough's wife. Magic Potion plays like the album-length thank-you for that encouragement. Carney and singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach pound through 11 tracks of the kind of blues that kids raised on Led Zeppelin play when they decide the original stuff is better.
Magic Potion's first three songs sketch its boundaries. "Just Got To Be" and "Your Touch" keep riding the same intense riffs until they make their point; the heartfelt love song "You're The One" takes a slower route to the same destination. There's nothing surprising about what the Keys do here, but it's seldom less than satisfying, either. Particularly on a track like "Goodbye Babylon," which uses the sound of electricity and passion to tell the whole corrupt world to fuck off.