The Black Keys' 'Dropout Boogie' Will Get Anyone Hyped for Some Sportsball

The Black Keys' 'Dropout Boogie' Will Get Anyone Hyped for Some Sportsball
The Black Keys' slickly modern take on bluesy garage rock is tailor-made for the intermissions between periods of hockey games or in the soundtrack of EA video games. Just listening to the band's 2011 single "Lonely Boy" is enough to get anyone hyped up for some good ol' fashioned sportsball.

Dropout Boogie, the band's 11th album, at times leans so heavily into this sports-highlight-reel sound that there's even a song called "Your Team Is Looking Good." Beginning with a ref's whistle, it features a stomping groove, brawny blooze licks, and singer Dan Auerbach howling "Your team is looking good / But not good as ours / Ashes to ashes / Dust to dust / You beat everybody but you won't beat us." Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney must have been doing some market research, because this song couldn't possibly be any more on-the-nose.

Along with appealing to sports fans, the Black Keys embrace funk and retain some of the bluesy swagger of last year's Delta Kream covers album. "Wild Child" grafts its jock rock chorus on top of some wah-soaked wicka-wickas; a similar dynamic returns on "It Ain't Over," with some vibey loops that resemble a warped 7-inch stuck on a groove.

Those are Dropout Boogie's first two singles, and they're also the opening tracks on the album — a blatantly top-heavy pacing that gives way to an album that's slightly more varied than it seems at first glance. The Black Keys are never subtle, exactly, but songs like "For the Love of Money" and the mellow "How Long" have a looseness that's inviting even without earworm hooks. "Burn the Damn Thing Down" is mega-fuzzy blues boogie, but Auerbach's sleepy vocal delivery is much less fiery than the title would suggest, while "Happiness" combines its satisfying loud-quiet-loud dynamics with a chorus that's too muffled and wordy to be a singalong.

Contrary to those more understated tracks, "Baby I'm Coming Home" has the harmonized, organ-backed chorus of one of the bands lower down on the Woodstock 1969 poster, and the Black Keys recruit a real-life classic rocker in ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons for the meaty blues riffs "Good Love."

This makes Dropout Boogie an album caught between opposing impulses. On the one hand, the Black Keys sound right at home jamming on a shaggy blues groove; on the other, they're still still making music that, whether accidentally or by design, sounds like it was specifically created for Sportsnet's music director. Dropout Boogie is good at both sounds, but not amazing at either. (Nonesuch)