In 2002, when the Black Keys released their debut album, you could have got very long odds on them being the one early-noughties garage-blues band to not just survive but prosper. Their feud with Jack White now looks less like the resentment of someone furious about them hanging on to his coattails and more like someone bitter about them overtaking him so thoroughly. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have done so by making records that sometimes journey outside their comfort zone – like their last one, 2014’s mildly trippy Turn Blue – but always remain anchored by thoroughly solid songwriting.
When they finished touring Turn Blue, Auerbach said he had become so alienated from his job that he could play to a huge crowd without thinking about what he was doing. The five-year break seems to have concentrated his mind. The intentions of Let’s Rock are evident from its title. And, in case you felt any ambiguity, the album opens with a riff so thrillingly, brutally obvious – on Shine a Little Light – that White will doubtless accuse them of having nicked it from some aborted followup to Seven Nation Army, while the dirty, distorted guitar of Lo/Hi has something of ZZ Top (and the John Lee Hooker-style riff of La Grange) heading into an arena-ready chorus. The lyrics are rarely more than functional (“See twin eagle birds up in the tree / One for you and there’s one for me,” Auerbach sings on Eagle Birds) but the music is persuasive: hard, shining rock, with an irresistible pop edge.