The New Classics: The Black Keys – Magic Potion

[The New Classics is a reoccurring segment in which we examine our favorite indie releases that are bound to replace our parent’s “classic rock” stash hidden in the attic or the basement. These aren’t reviews, these are unedited testimonies and opinions about why we love what we love. Can we get a witness?]

Words by Jim

Album: Magic Potion
Artist: The Black Keys
Released: September 12, 2006
Label: Nonesuch
Producers: The Black Keys

Let’s all close our eyes and remember bygone days. A simpler way of life, when gas didn’t cost $4.00 a gallon and we all had jobs. When kids could go to college and not get evacuated by bomb threats a dozen times a day. Let’s imagine way back to 2006 when The Black Keys we’re on the cusp, the fringe, and that golden Grammy statue was just a joke in the back of their heads. Come with me and let’s travel to that time together.

The Black Keys / Your Touch
The Black Keys / Strange Desire
The Black Keys / Goodbye Babylon

Don’t get me wrong, I love The Black Keys and have for a very long time now and I couldn’t be happier that they now own pretty much the entire western hemisphere. Good bands work hard to make it and we should never be pissed off that they do (unless they start to suck *cough*theshins*cough*). But it’s very important, boys and girls, to revisit and pay our respects to our roots. For all the random Zales, NCAA, or whatever else commercials that now feature The Black Keys, we must harken back to the days when Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were two landscapin’ sons of bitches playing indie blues rock in their parents basements. I like new Black Keys (except when Danger Mouse is involved i.e. blerg) quite a lot, but their dirty, grungy, raw days are where it’s at.

I could have easily picked albums like The Big Come Up or Thickfreakness that are just filthy with beat up blues rock recorded on crappy lo-fi equipment. That’s my favorite stuff, yo! Instead, I threw you a curveball and picked Magic Potion as I firmly believe it may be their most underrated album while simultaneously acting as the division between the new and old Black Keys . Listen up.

Before Magic Potion, Auerbach and Carney were just kids making a name for themselves. The Big Come Up and Thickfreakness were diamonds in the rough, reserved for the hardcore fans, friends, and family. Rubber Factory saw great reviews and pushed the duo onto the scene with songs like “10 AM Automatic” and “Girl is On My Mind”. Pretty much any sports videogame you played that year or the next had a BK song in it. Awesome for them. After Magic Potion is when the band saw huge success. They recorded with the high profile DJ/Producer Danger Mouse, they collaborated on a pretty awesome collection of blues rap songs with some seriously famous artists (Mos Def, RZA, Ludacris,)under the moniker “Blakroc”. They destroyed the general public with the album “Brothers”, won a fucking grammy, and continued to rule the world with “El Camino”. See what I mean? Magic Potion was like blues rock puberty for The Black Keys.

So I’ve babbled on and on trying to justify my choice, but really, all you have to do put Magic Potion on the turntable and let it speak for yourself. To me, this is one of those albums that I may never actually be able to name a single song off of, but goddamnit if I know all the words. Every time I revisit it I think to myself “This song is on this album? Oh yeah. And this one too? Holy shit”. From start to finish, Magic Potion just doesn’t quit. It’s a perfect blend of vintage Blake Keys and the impending future sound of the band. The riffs are HUGE, (see opener “Just Got to Be”) just like they were on Thickfreakness, but the quality and production value is tremendous. Auerbach’s vocals are crisp, clear, and only distorted because they made that production choice and didn’t let the equipment do the choosing for them, a luxury they didn’t have on earlier albums. This is also the first album where every single song was written by the band. No Junior Kimbrough tunes here, but damnit if these tunes couldn’t pass the muster for early blues pioneering cuts.

The hits just keep rolling as if it’s a best of record. “Your Touch” is infectiously good with a lazer beam solo that I’m sure made Jack White cringe with jealousy. “Strange Desire” is a foreshadowing of future offerings on Brothers, while “Goodbye Babylon” and “Black Door” are just soul crushing blues at its best. I recall seeing the band a few times before and after Magic Potion was released and they just oozed confidence at this point in their career and it shows, and they never looked back, and that’s awesome. So I urge you, friends, if you’re an old fan, do yourself a favor and re-listen to Magic Potion. If you’re a new fan, pick up Magic Potion next and then work your way backwards. It might just blow your mind to see how far they’ve come and how much they’ve accomplished.

How can you not love an album that has a picture of a fried egg on the inside cover? If you aren’t familiar, take a listen tot he lynchpin recording from the Black Keys over at Insound.

2 Responses to “The New Classics: The Black Keys – Magic Potion”

  1. I have to say I kinda feel the same way when it comes to small bands climbing up their ladder of success. You really like them when they are a small struggling band then as they get more corporate they start to suck. But I have always loved the black keys and I really haven’t found any of their music that I don’t like. Every time I listen to a song of their I just wanna start dancing. I wish their concerts were a little cheaper but thats what happens as you keep climbing that ladder I guess :)

  2. @Kate: Yeah, it’s funny/interesting how overall popularity, and changes in that, affect our affinity for a band. Why is that? Is this true of other art forms?

    Oh well, The Black Keys still rock!

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