The Black Keys: El Camino


With 2010’s epic Brothers, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were propelled to superstar status and with good reason as the band found inspiration in broken marriages and Muscle Shoals Studio.  The expanded musical instrumentation and focus on crafting heartfelt songs paid huge dividends for the band, producing a new album a year later is unexpected and when first announced smelled of leftover tracks. 

It simply doesn’t matter when these songs were crafted as the Keys have kept that winning vibe flowing and if anything they have grown even larger sounding, continuing to embrace musical expansion while keeping true to what they do best; rock.  El Camino was recorded in their new hometown of Nashville (specifically in Auerbach’s new Easy Eye Sound Studio) with the production help of Danger Mouse.  Gorgeous organ fills, twinkling chimes and bass runs populate the duos growing soundscape, mixing with the killer riffs and skin pounding that fans pre-Brothers ate up.   

 The tracks are tight, they get to the point setting the tone while keeping the upbeat tempo flowing nicely and making the 39 minute album cruise.  The lead single “Lonely Boy” is  aperfect get-down-dirty rock and roll with a melting riff and hip shaking beat (not to mention a great video).  Flashes of 50’s doo-wop in “Stop Stop” match perfectly with Auerbach’s falsetto singing while the retro tone and garage feel of “Nova Baby” jangles.  The blues riffing in “Run Right Back” is eerily familiar and its hypnotic lyrics (“She’s the worst thing/I’ve been addicted too”) make it sound like a track that is well worn.    

 The three songs in the heart of the albums batting order are total standouts, starting with “Gold On the Ceiling”, a revved up electric-gospel freak-out that sounds as if it was recorded in a dusty hot church, complete with hand claps and backup choir; a holy experience.  “Little Black Submarines” is the one unusual number on El Camino, starting acoustically, swimming in seas of isolation before crashing like Led Zeppelin for the second half which will surely turn into a live showstopper.  “Money Maker” has the swagger and chunky charm of a roadhouse burlesque club in the middle of nowhere, sexy, powerful and slightly dangerous. 

 El Camino is urgently direct, keeping the new juicy robust sound and old arena ready riffs which are central to The Black Keys.  The stellar production provided makes the record sound vital and alive while Auerbach and Carney continue to drive this ongoing career creative high right on down the freeway into awaiting eardrums.   

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