Considering there are just two Black Keys—and that one of them mans the drums exclusively—it’s natural to expect singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach’s first solo record to sound a lot like one of his regular “group” projects. Well, it does, and it doesn’t.
Keep It Hid is no wild departure. The tough blues-rock of “I Want Some More” would have fit right in on 2004 Keys disc Rubber Factory, while the even grittier “Street Walkin’” could have been ripped from 2003’s Thickfreakness. Still, a fair portion of Hid finds Auerbach subtly stepping out, proffering an album more fit for an evening of contemplative listening than for a night in a rowdy bar.
Wistful opening track “Trouble Weighs a Ton” sets a singer-songwriter tone straightaway: “What once was sweet/Is sorrow and grief/That cannot be undone.” A premium is placed on Auerbach’s voice and words, rather than on raising a ruckus. Moving through the material—the electronic-beat-aided “Real Desire,” the gypsy-bluesy “Mean Monsoon,” the ’70s-Clapton-channeling “My Last Mistake”—another key distinction emerges: as sole producer, Auerbach answers only to his own taste.
Whether he succeeds in piecing together a satisfying whole is a matter of preference (the feeling here is that there aren’t enough loud stretches to balance out the muted tones). Either way, Auerbach’s attempt to break out is admirable, even if he never fully untethers himself from his comfort zone.