100 Days Project

Ben: 100 Writings / 100 Opening Guitar Hooks

various, random creative expressions / writings, inspired partially by 100 popular songs (songs that somewhat begin with a leading hook of a guitar.)

Day 22:

“Lonely Boy” (2011) by the Black Keys

“Lonely Boy” (2011) by the Black Keys

Let me tell you about the Black Keys.

It was around 2005 / 06 when my sister came in from Australia. It was for a Wedding, or a Birthday, something, she came over for. It was at that Church on New North Road, Mt Albert. We were talking outside, when she reached into her pocket and gave me a green and red CD case. “What’s this?” It was labelled ‘Thickfreakness.’ “Oh, it’s a band called the Black Keys, you might like it.” “Oh, fuck yeah!” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become attentive to new music lesser and less. But, most certainly, around that era, I was in awe of new music. And I’d take any opportunity to sink my teeth into something fresh and new. “Why ya giving it to me? Don’t you want it?” “Um, I thought it was pretty meh.”

Once I blared it, at home, on full blast, it didn’t take me long to love the band. From the first song – the fuzzy guitar, Tommy gun drums, swooning lyrics and backwater Mississippi riffs, I was hooked. I bought two of their other albums and a friend downloaded another for me. This was truly a great band I thank my sister for helping me to discover. Of course, the first comparison was, always, to the White Stripes. But this was far rawer than them. As talk of them spread, I boasted how I discovered them first, as a true pre-Hipster would. I knocked down any comparisons anyone had of them to the Stripes, as ridiculous. And I stated how their take on the Blues was the most important step for modern music to take. I can’t believe I used to talk like that – out of my arse. But fortunately / unfortunately I still talk like that. Sometimes.

I was unfortunate not to see them at the Kings Arms, due to the fact that I had no money. But I heard great reviews about them. (Note how small and indie the Kings Arms venue is and how six years later the band played the spacious Vector arena.)

And it was with the release of the ‘Brothers’ album, that contained the above song, that the Keys reached their maxim. Maybe their success was due in part to the huge vacuum that the White Stripes left when they broke up, but either way they hit their stride: teenage girls; my rural Waikato mates who drive Utes; Car commercials – everyone had finally discovered them. The hipster in me wasn’t too pleased about this, but to be fair, especially as you grow older and less attentive, I didn’t care and, to be honest, the band deserved this acclaim – finally. But that didn’t mean they lost their artistic integrity. The above song still gets me slapping my thighs and boogie-ing down, the same way it did when I first heard it, and the same way it does whilst I’m writing about it now.

I ‘Like’ the Black Keys on Facebook and when I saw this video pop up on my wall the day it was first released – I put it on full blast. And it was all still there – the fuzzy guitar, Tommy gun drums, swooning lyrics. Oh, and that riff! If you’re a guitarist, please excuse me if I didn’t know, but that riff has got to be the simplest most effective riff I’ve heard yet this century.

One of the reasons musicians use Dance music instruments, such as Pro Tools, etc, is because every single known permutation of a guitar riff, guitar chord or guitar tuning has probably already been discovered. Django laid the foundation work, Hendrix went experimental and Dimebag twisted his fingers just to form some type of unique sound by 1998. But by 2000, it was generally accepted that computers simply offer more, whereas guitars are now an incredibly Manual instrument.

And just when I was about to conclude this statement, Dan Auerback found a new guitar sound – a divebomb, where you quickly lower the pitch of the sound very fast, via the tuning key. I’m shocked I didn’t even think of that before. (My sister's just shocked the band turned out better than she expected.)

And that goal in itself is one of the several, if not more, reasons why this song rocks and why the Black Keys are a stupendous band.