The Black Keys
El Camino


3.5
great

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
November 29th, 2011 | 213 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I got a love that keeps me waiting."

The Black Keys indulge in a clever little bit of wordplay on their newest album, juxtaposing the image of a vehicle with the words “El Camino,” simultaneously connecting an album of virile, red-blooded rock with that rugged, high-horsepower Chevrolet pick-up. Of course, El Camino has nothing to do with the car; the minivan on the cover is the car that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney originally toured around in, and “El Camino” is simply Spanish for “the road.” It effectively paints their seventh album in two lights: a very pertinent description of the record’s sound and a commentary on how far the Black Keys have come as a band since that minivan. Make no mistake – El Camino is a victory lap through and through, reveling in the tight rock classicism of its creators and lurching through all the many tales of women scorned and cheers lifted.

After last year’s unexpected critical and commercial smash in Brothers, the Black Keys could have easily coasted off the returns for a couple years, milked the festival circuit, and just reaped the benefits of finally making it to the top after years of being unfairly lumped in as the White Stripes’ little brothers. Instead, they recruit Danger Mouse, who produced the ubiquitous “Tighten Up,” and kick out another taut set of pop-rock tunes, nearly all of which could stand toe to toe with “Tighten Up” in a quest to give publishing companies worldwide early Christmas presents. Take “Lonely Boy,” whose fuzzed-out guitar lick and romping drums buttress a chorus absolutely primal in its catchiness. Although I prefer the off-kilter rhythm of “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy” is, simply put, the Black Keys doing what they were put on Earth to do – turning the amps up to 11 and paying homage to a brand of shit-kicking rock ‘n roll that took subtlety to a nice seafood dinner and never called her again. Throughout El Camino the influences change, but the Black Keys personality dominates. The ‘sunny harmonizing on the ‘60s California rock of “Dead And Gone;” the Cheap Trick-esque power-pop of “Sister;” the fist-pumping cock rock on “Gold On The Ceiling;” it’s still quintessential Black Keys, yet distilled down to a fiery, primitive essence. Workmanlike guitar rock with a melodic punch, featuring lyrics about industrious prostitutes and the joys of being your own man – this is the Black Keys at their core, and it’s both inherently vital and incredibly simple.

It’s shorter than Brothers, but it’s also almost too easy to digest in one sitting – the record’s unerring trajectory leads to some monotony at the tail end of things, and it lacks the layers that made Brothers such a rewarding listen. Even when “Little Black Submarines” promises a breather, with its lovely acoustic campfire vibe and a progression reminiscent of “Stairway to Heaven,” it’s just a fake-out before the massive drum fills and ragged guitar riff railroad any nuance out of the picture. Some might say this is a celebration of the Black Keys’ accomplishments, them throwing a party the only way they know how; others could see it as a disappointment after the adventurous sonic palette of Brothers and the ambitious, surprisingly potent Blakroc collaboration from 2009. I’m content to consider it their pat on their own back, a triumph of visceral over cerebral, all drum kicks to the gut and one-fingered salutes with rockabilly chords. Blues, garage, classic – call it what you want, but at its heart the sound remains the same. Is that trebly guitar solo at the end of “Nova Baby” necessary? Hell no, but it sure sounds awesome. El Camino is the draft beer and greasy burger you stop to get after knocking boots in the backroom of some sawdust-filled dive bar. Down and dirty, it grooves by on soulful power chords and Carney’s relentless hammering of his kit. Have too much, and you might get a little sick of it all. Have just enough, though, and man, is there anything better in the world than the best kind of junk food?



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user ratings (793)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Eeyah (4)
The Black Keys deliver an album with arena ambition, but with a familiar garage sound...


Comments:Add a Comment 
PorkchopExpress
November 29th 2011


389 Comments


Every time I listen to this album, I play "Nova Baby" like three times in a row. Great album, and nice review.

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2011


10545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i feel like that song should have been the closer it's great. mind eraser doesn't really do anything for me

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Inveigh
November 29th 2011


25106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet review, I can't wait to listen to this

Digging: Hail Mary Mallon - Bestiary

AggravatedYeti
November 29th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

JUST GOT THIS RUDY DONT RUUUUUIIIINNN IITTT FOR ME.

Sleaper
November 29th 2011


3419 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

nova baby is p much the highlight. but my god is stop stop a filler. fucking hell.
still a solid album. good review too

Digging: The Smith Street Band - Throw Me in the River

NigelH
November 29th 2011


1571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album is quite satisfying. i found Brothers to be a little on the slow side for my liking. this satiates me.

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2011


10545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i could see that. i see this record as kind of the flip side of brothers' coin

NigelH
November 29th 2011


1571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

definitely. similar production and overall feel, but a lot more rockin and uptempo.

someguest
November 29th 2011


21205 Comments


I hate this band. The vocals are awful and the compositions are boring.

Ending
November 29th 2011


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haven't heard this yet but a 3.5 sounds like what I'd have expected. Still gonna check this out.

Sleaper
November 30th 2011


3419 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

nah fuck it. too many fillers on this. conclusion = brothers > el camino.
listened to it heaps today and realised its not that great.

NigelH
November 30th 2011


1571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"but my god is stop stop a filler."

no way man. one of the best on the album.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
November 30th 2011


50871 Comments


El Camino Car Crash

Digging: Bobby Barnett - Little Wounds

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
November 30th 2011


6505 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well, so much for my review... You already said
everything I wanted to tackle :/

It's a fantastic album, although not as good as their earlier ones, but it might be the perfect album for people wanting to get into The Keys.

HBFS
November 30th 2011


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love love love nova baby, lonely boy and little black submarines

Digging: The Smith Street Band - Throw Me in the River

Jekub
November 30th 2011


218 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this album is good, but my god they sounded alot cooler back in the thickfreakness/rubber factory days

greg84
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2011


7432 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cool album. It's better than Brothers for sure, not on par with Rubber Factory though.

Digging: Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Rhythm

lancebramsay
November 30th 2011


1585 Comments


I don't understand why the vocals are so fuzzy, dude has an amazing voice.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2011


10360 Comments


Very good review Rudy; listened to most of this and I'm feeling 3.5

Kiran
Emeritus
November 30th 2011


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i love this band

Digging: Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson



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