On the third album in three years from dirty blues duo the Black Keys, frontman Dan Auerbach still sings as if he's goose-stepping on hot coals; his guitar still wails like a newborn. Patrick Carney still provides a lean, mean thump, whacking his drum kit hard enough to set off car alarms.
But on Rubber Factory, Akron's finest opens up its sound like so many bottles of cheap beer. "The Lengths" is a spare, rustic ballad with aching lap steel; "Girl Is on My Mind" is a throbbing, Hendrix-worthy workup. The band even drifts into gentle honky-tonk on its deep-fried cover of the Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle," which moves its feet to a country-western shuffle. Though the Keys' moniker remains monochromatic, their music no longer follows suit.