The Black Keys didn’t reinvent Rock & Roll but they’ve gone a long way towards remodeling it. Their latest release, aptly-titled El Camino is proof. One look under the hood and you see their sound is saturated with an assortment of contemporary and classic influences oozing with smart mixing, excellent production and raw talent. This road-ready blend has El Camino prepared to blow any competition off the starting line.Lead single “Lonely Boy,” with its ready-steady beat, catchy melody and the choir that kicks in for the chorus compels you to move. “I got a love the keeps me waiting, I gotta love that keeps me waiting, I’m a lonely boy, I’m a lonely boy” chimes lead singer Dan Auerbach, with back up vocals as drummer Patrick Carney lays out an addictive tempo. Next is “Dead and Gone,” an unfairly addictive song with solid, high-speed percussion and a certain 70’s flare. “So long, why you waited so long, after every single word is said I’m feeling dead and gone now,” lament the lyrics. The sound is a little more organic than the previous songs and the clapping effect is a nice touch.
“Gold On The Ceiling” follows with its spaced and slower pace. The drums are also less pronounced while the incorporated clapping sustains a nice supplementary rhythm. There are certain parallels that can be drawn between Patrick’s drumming and that of The Eagles of Death Metal. The amazing “Little Black Submarines” is a beautiful song with a clean and instrumental intro that segues to a harder, electric track half way through, similar to “Stairway to Heaven”. The tempo is slow with calm vocals throughout when the track suddenly unfolds. “You know me, I had plans but they just disappeared, to the back of my mind, oh can it be, the voices are calling me, they get lost in and out of time” continue the vocals.
The seedy “Money Maker” reaches into the gutter with a catchy, mellow melody but lags behind the rest of the album lyrically. “Run Right Back” follows, another song about a woman who has captured the attention of the guys, forcing them “run right back to her.”
80’s pop is channeled by “Sister” with similar to the “Eye of the Tiger” had it been bred with DEVO’s percussion. The balanced tempo, higher-pitch vocals backed by the choir, and the well-defined spaces between notes all work well together. “Hall of the Season” is percussion driven and static-toned with poetic lyrics stating, “Even though you don’t know, you are reacting all along, what I see is killing me, you wont make it on your own, in this hall of the season you need more of a reason to be with you”.
The 70’s return on “Stop, Stop,” with its clapping, a little sonic distortion and cool guitar riffs. It’s disco rock about a woman who mistreats her man, who’s had enough of her shit. He reprimands her, “You gotta stop, stop what you see me for?” The fast, serene “Nova Baby” follows. it is a nice, calm and beautiful song. “You walk around in other towns, I’ve seen you out, just hanging round, it’s what you’re told, I suppose you’ll meet me one day”. “Mind Eraser” is the last song. “Ohh, don’t let it be over” sings Dan, and the lyrics reflect how the listener feels; it sucks that the album is over. El Camino is one of the most polished, perfectly arranged albums released in the last 10 years. The resulting work is optimum for cheerful relaxation or dancing to wickedly bitter-sweet melodies charged with mind-blowing electric static. The Black Keys deserve praise for bringing back real, awesome rock music. While the accomplishment mostly belongs to the actual group, credit must be given where it’s due. Danger Mouse produced this record and his style preferences are very much present.
El Camino is the perfect collaboration between super gifted musicians and an equally talented producer, much like great writers are backed by great editors. This is the 7th album for The Black Keys and already, the anticipation of their next one is too much to bear.
Out of 5
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