Tag Archives: The Black Keys

Rocks In The Attic #481: The Steve Miller Band – ‘Book of Dreams’ (1977)

RITA#481jpgUp to last week, I wouldn’t have known Steve Miller if he had passed me in the street. He’s one of those people I’ve just never seen interviewed (as far as I can remember), and his music is just far enough outside of the mainstream that you don’t see him regularly on the likes of MTV or in the music magazines. All in all, I get the impression that he likes his anonymity.

I love his music though; him and his older brother Glenn (that’s a joke, by the way; keep up). Even Steve’s really early stuff, like 1968’s Living In The USA is worth checking out – he definitely hit the ground running. Everybody loves The Joker (or at least everybody seems to have loved it ever since Levi’s used it for an advertising campaign in 1990). Take The Money And Run, Fly Like An Eagle, Jet Airliner – just awesome; and even the later cheese like Abracadabra can be happily put in the guilty pleasures pile.

But then, bursting out of his cloud of anonymity last week, after being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, he shows his true colours. Half of his complaints in regards to the Hall Of Fame process and the music business in general seemed to be fair enough – and probably needed to be said – but his attitude and treatment of the Black Keys was just disgusting. A severe case of Grumpy Old Man syndrome.

Looking very uncomfortable in a pair of matching leather jackets, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney gave a lovely speech to induct Miller, but ended up leaving the venue half-way through his set. According to Auerbach, Miller didn’t even know who they were when they were introduced backstage (after the event he complained about the aspect of not being able to choose who inducts you) and was just unpleasant to them throughout the evening.

I don’t think those outside of the USA truly understand the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame process. It does seem to be a very American thing. Most of the coverage of it seems to be from commentators amazed at how certain acts are still to be inducted, decades after their commercial peak. I applaud Miller for holding the institution up to the light, but I just can’t get over that Black Keys thing.

I’m not a huge fan of the Black Keys. In my eyes they sold out a long time ago, but Miller’s attitude seems to stem from reverse ageism – disrespecting them for being a younger band. What a battler.

Hit: Jet Airliner

Hidden Gem: Threshold

Rocks In The Attic #430: Muse – ‘Showbiz’ (1999)

RITA#430I used to be a big fan of Muse. Right from the first album too – essentially ever since I read in the NME about a guitarist with crazy effects pedals in an up and coming band from Devon. Then I heard Sunburn in a club somewhere and I was hooked. Muse to me sound like the natural progression of Radiohead if they had gone in that direction after The Bends rather than the avant garde bullshit they swapped their guitars for.

I was lucky enough to see Muse touring this album; a mid-afternoon set on the Other Stage at Glastonbury in 2000. I would see them touring the second album too, and then I stupidly overlooked their headlining slot at Glastonbury touring the third album (but that’s another story altogether).

The Radiohead comparisons are inevitable, with this debut record being produced by John Leckie, producer of The Bends. Showbiz – the title song – draws the most comparisons with Radiohead, borrowing the ominous slow-burn they perfected across The Bends and OK Computer.  I remember being stood at festivals when Muse first came out and listening to people trying to pigeon-hole them. “They’re just Radiohead in different clothes.” “Nah, they’re Queen for the 21st century.” Whatever. It’s a shame that when bands come out, they just have to be put into a box. People can’t just accept that a band exists on its own merits. But then once a band is accepted, that band is then used as a comparison for newer bands. “Royal Blood? They’re just Muse mixed with the Black Keys, aren’t they?” Ad infinitum.

The great thing about Muse when they started out is that they were a solid package right from the get-go. If you look at that Glastonbury set from 2000, Matt Bellamy has all the vocal histrionics down pat. This wasn’t something he developed over time (like Chris Martin’s woeful hopping on one leg holding his ribcage with one arm). It was also nice to see Bellamy dive into the drum kit, hanging onto bass player Christopher Wolstenholme’s back, at the end of the set too. It was things like this that made me sit up and realise that rock and roll was coming back, after a few years anxiously waiting for Britpop to go through its final death rattles.

Hit:  Unintended

Hidden Gem: Fillip

Rocks In The Attic #376: Royal Blood – ‘Royal Blood’ (2014)

RITA#376Lord knows how they manage to get as much sound out of just a bass guitar and a drum kit, but all respect to them. Less is more, obviously. They also seem to be bringing cool back to podgy white males in leather jackets and baseball caps.

I don’t get to listen to much contemporary music these days, but this made such a noise in 2014 that I couldn’t resist it. It made a couple of ‘best album of the year’ lists, and that’s good enough for me. Thankfully I don’t have the time to wade through new releases looking for good material anymore; I’m happy enough to just take some recommendations at the end of the year. That means I can spend the rest of the time listening to Credence and Steely Dan.

As much as I like this album, I don’t really know what they’re going to do next. Another album of this could get very tired very soon. Either they’ll fill their sound out on album number two alongside a hotshot producer, like the Black Keys’ work with Danger Mouse, or they’ll do something else entirely. Who knows? The music press need to stop labelling them as the saviours of British rock though – nobody needs that kind of pressure.

Hit: Figure It Out

Hidden Gem: Careless

Rocks In The Attic #296: The White Stripes – ‘Icky Thump’ (2007)

RITA#296I guess the fact that I’ve had this album in my collection for about three years, still sealed in its shrinkwrap, speaks for itself. The White Stripes at one point were probably the most cutting-edge band in America – but after Elephant I don’t think anyone really took any notice of them.

I don’t think the quality of their records suffered after Elephant – there’s definitely nothing wrong with either Get Behind Me Satan or Icky Thump – but perhaps everybody just got over the novelty of seeing a two-piece band on stage (something that the Black Keys helped with).

I remember reading an interview with Jack White in the early 2000s and he was saying how important it was to remain an enigma to their fans. ‘As soon as the music press find out everything about me, I’ve had it’ – he said, of words to those effect. Perhaps everybody just got bored of them. There used to be a load of mystery around Jack and Meg White’s relationship – are they brother and sister or husband and wife? – and as soon as it was revealed that they were a divorced couple, suddenly they didn’t seem so special anymore.

This album is the soundtrack of Jack White’s marriage to Karen Elson – the Jean Paul Gaultier supermodel who went to my secondary school (she was in the year below me). Icky Thump is surely a reference to the infamous Yorkshire martial-art Ecky Thump from The Goodies television show. I still find it hilarious that Karen Elson would have taken Jack White home to meet her parents in Oldham. Funnier still is that while he was there, somebody brought up The Goodies in conversation. White and Elson’s marriage didn’t last long unfortunately so now I can’t claim my hometown to be the home of a rock star. Well, unless you count Barclay James Harvest.

No matter how I try, I can’t separate Icky Thump from a certain video I saw online once starring a young ‘actress’ being showered with more than just compliments. Whoever has uploaded this particular compilation had used the White Stripes song to soundtrack every highlight (and unless you’re offended by anything at all, don’t dare try and track this down). Good times!

Hit: Icky Thump

Hidden Gem: 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues

Rocks In The Attic #182: The White Stripes – ‘White Blood Cells’ (2001)

RITA#182I saw The White Stripes at Glastonbury for the first time when they were touring this album, on a windy Saturday afternoon in 2002. The next – and last – time I would see them in 2005, they were headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday night. Although they were much more of a household name when I saw them in 2005, the hype around them was huge in 2002.

I had been given a copy of De Stijl by my friend Paul Hughes when it came out, so I was already a fan of the band, but I think this record was the start of the music press really paying attention to them. White Blood Cells isn’t a great album, in fact it’s very weak compared to De Stijl and Elephant on either side of it, but I guess it gave them something to tour behind and feed the hype to position themselves at the top of the alternative rock tree.

I remember being so excited about seeing them in 2002 – how was a two-man band going to fill the immense size of the Pyramid Stage? How the hell was the band going to sound with only a guitar and a set of drums? It’s less of a novelty these days, especially with The Black Keys crossing further across into the mainstream and essentially doing the same trick but to a wider audience. The absence of a bass guitar doesn’t really get noticed, probably because Jack White’s guitar is so loud.

In recent years, the band’s reputation has soured – possibly because Jack White seems to be spreading himself so thinly. He’s no longer the enigma he was initially so careful to foster.

Hit: Fell In Love With A Girl

Hidden Gem: We’re Going To Be Friends