Album Review: Black Keys front man falls short in solo debut

Dan Auerbach, guitarist and singer for The Black Keys, released his first solo album, Keep It Hid, on Feb. 10, to little fanfare.

His choice to step out on his own as an artist seems a little redundant when his full-time band only consists of one other person: drummer Patrick Carney. Redundant is also, perhaps, the best way to describe Keep It Hid.

The album's 14 tracks drag along and hit or miss. More often than not, they resemble previous work done by The Black Keys.

Auerbach's clinging to his previous style is not necessarily a detriment to the album though, as the highlights of Keep It Hid usually occur when Auerbach sticks to his Ohio roots.

The Black Keys led a revival of Southern power duo garage blues since their second studio album Thickfreakness, released in 2003.

Since that time, the Black Keys have been on the rise and have achieved a degree of mainstream success with 2008's Attack and Release. This album was, in fact, so praiseworthy that it garnered the duo a coveted spot on the Lollapalooza main stage last year in Chicago.

Keep It Hid, however, does not showcase Auerbach's abilities as well as his Black Keys albums. The album opens up on the uncharacteristically slow acoustic hymn, "Trouble Weighs a Ton," a song that sounds like it is directly off of the O Brother, Where Out Thou? movie soundtrack.

Unfortunately, the album never really picks up the pace from there. The title track Keep It Hid is just too slow, too boring and has too much Audiovox to be enjoyable.

"When I Left the Room" is a grueling four minute long banjo-laden mess, and the melodic lullaby "When the Night Comes" does little more than put listeners to sleep.

Even when Auerbach decides to speed things up later in the album, he falls short of the urgency and power found in most of his previous work. Nevertheless, the steady-thumping, beat-driven, carnival-tinged "I Want Some More" is definitely a highlight.

The surfer rockabilly of "Mean Monsoon" adds an enjoyable quality to the album as well. And of particular note, the song "Prowl," a musical return to his Black Keys days, really shows Auerbach at his songwriting best.

Auerbach is famous for his manipulation of the guitar using pedals, amps and musical tricks to get the most out of his instrument. On this album he pulls out all of the stops, though with seemingly little success. No amount of technical expertise and fancy machinery can pump into Keep It Hid the energy that it sorely needs.