Those lucky enough to have discovered the first two albums from San Antonio’s HACIENDA, 2008’s Loud Is the Night and 2010’s Big Red and Barbacoa—both produced by Black Keys guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach—encountered a mix of South Texas soul that rivaled the heyday of the Sir Douglas Quintet. With influences ranging from sixties pop to garage rock to R&B, founders and cousins Abraham Villanueva (piano, vocals) and Dante Schwebel (guitar, vocals) crafted fresh music with a loose and captivating charm. But SHAKEDOWN (Collective Sounds) ain’t that. The quartet’s new album boasts bass-heavy riffs, robotic drums, shimmering vocals, and a radio-ready sound. The trouble is, that sound belongs to the Black Keys. Much as he did with his production on Dr. John’s recent CD, Locked Down, Auerbach has overstepped his bounds, inserting himself as not only producer but co-writer on every track. On songs like “Savage,” he all but obliterates the band’s identity. It’s not that Shakedown isn’t enjoyable; it is. The songs are catchy and likely to propel Hacienda to the next step in their career. But with the exception of a few tracks (“Don’t Turn Out the Light” and “Don’t You Ever,” for instance), the line to their past has been lost. A few years ago the Black Keys underwent a similar and highly successful metamorphosis, from grungy blues to chart-topping synthetic grooves. Just don’t be surprised if it’s the early work by both groups that is treasured a decade from now.
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