This album was officially the start of my hipster phase. (Remember when hipsters were a trend?). I mean, the cover alone fits the bill: it’s a plain black background with the words, “This is an album by The Black Keys. The name of this album is Brothers.”
With that introduction, simple but direct, Brothers solidified the band’s commercial presence and aesthetic. It’s a refined version of a ’60s throwback: many of the songs, especially “Howlin’ for You,” have jangly, distorted guitar à la Jimi Hendrix. That distortion would continue with other, later hits like “Gold on the Ceiling,” which is another Black Keys favorite of mine.
“Everlasting Light” is such a lovely album opener. It’s slow – pensive, even – and the rhythmic drumbeat mimics the later line, “Love is the coal/That makes this train roll.” You’ve got that ’60s feel here as well: the repeated “Shoo-shoo-shoo-wa” seems like a nod to girl groups of the era. “Everlasting Light” is the closest thing the album has to a love song. Others, like “She’s Long Gone” and “Next Girl,” describe relationships that have ended. “Too Afraid to Love You” is the complete opposite of “Everlasting Light”; as the title indicates, the narrator is reluctant to start something new. When he does risk it, in “The Only One,” it’s too late.
Brothers closes with “These Days,” which has a completely different feeling than the other songs. It’s even slower than “Everlasting Light” and is very mournful. Part of its chorus features the lyrics, “Wasted times and broken dreams/Violent colors so obscene/It’s all I see these days/These days.” Oof. The song describes a “little house on Ellis Drive” that the narrator misses desperately. You can picture the house: something small and lonely, just like the song itself.