The Oil Slick: The One Where We Stop Comparing The Black Keys to The White Stripes
Last week, the Black Keys released their seventh album, El Camino, to wide-spread acclaim and enthusiastic fan reception. I'm sure four car commercials were spawned based just on the first single, “Lonely Boy.”
Invariably, the band is compared to that other bombastic two-piece who made rawk with blues infusions back in the 2000s. You know the one; they helped bring back rock and roll. That other one with a color in their name and only two people in the band.
It can be easy to link the Black Keys and the White Stripes. They are eerily similar: they both use two people, they have crunchy guitars, and hell, both of their names are made up of the same formula (color plus plural noun equals rock).
But to see the difference plainly, look no further than the way the bands appear on stage. The Black Keys rock out in the hipster uniform: casually disheveled cardigans and tight-fitting slacks. Meanwhile, the White Stripes played like they were putting on theater: black and red coating the stage (and themselves) and Jack wearing anything from jeans and a t-shirt to a full kilt.
While Jack White had always been anti-advertising (except for that Coke jingle), the Black Keys have gleefully embraced the capitalistic part of their musical careers, even going on The Colbert Report to have an ad-off with Vampire Weekend.
The White Stripes proudly stuck to a decidedly retro music creation process (The Elephant liner notes even brag that no computers were used to record the album), yet the Black Keys have never felt the compelled to make these types of stands.
Attitude is a huge part of what makes a band, and the Keys' casual take on their rock-star status is why the Black Keys and the White Stripes should never be considered different sides of the same coin; one rocks a theme, fought capitalism (most of the time) and eschewed technology. The other just rocks.