OK, so the first thing that I’m going say is that I love the Black Keys. I own every single album they have ever released and I can definitely be classified as a die hard fan. With that said, as a Black Keys purist I have major anxiety about this album. Just like anyone who likes a band before they “make it big” you feel like it’s your band and you cling to all the fellow fans, those people who knew them when it seemed as if only you did. I remember the first time I discovered a fellow Keys fan and it was magical. Now that they’re no longer underground the appeal seems different. That’s because now it seems like they’re everybody’s favorite band and it makes you scared that their sound will change because that’s what happens every time artist make it, right? You figure these guys just won a bunch of grammys, their fan base has sky rocketed, they’re shows are more expensive and the scariest thing of them all…the mainstream appeal is going to push them into going commercial. Maybe it does but at the end of the day I’m happy for these guys regardless. Brothers was an amazing album and even better if you consider that it was the follow up to Attack and Release which deserved a grammy or two also so the Keys deserve every accolade coming their way.
With all that said I’m late to this review (the album came out December 6th) because I had to allow myself time to let it all soak in. I didn’t want to deliver an emotional review where I’m being selfish and dishonest because my favorite indie band has made it big time never to return to the underground which I love. If you aren’t familiar with the basics on the band The Black Keys is a duo from Akron, Ohio comprised of lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Pat Carney. These guys have been doing this for a while as El Camino is their 7th studio album. Last year their 6th album Brothers won 3 grammys and catapulted them into stardom. Bringing us to the highly anticipated new release El Camino. Now let’s get into the review.
1. Lonely Boy– This is a real head nodder of a track. Dan and Pat can pretty much do this in their sleep at this point. These guys really like to open up their albums with songs that get your blood pumping and this song surely does what it’s intended to do. My only knock on it is that it didn’t floor me and I expected to be knocked in the head from the onset of the album.
2. Dead and Gone– One of the things I really like about The Keys is that they are always trying to improve their sound while maintaining what makes it good. Therefore the changes are always subtle. So far I can see their new toy is the addition of soulful, choir like background vocals which I like. This song itself however is not one I’m jumping for joy over. Two songs in and I’m dreading that I will disappointed by this album despite the fact that neither of the first two tracks are bad songs.
3. Gold On The Ceiling– My favorite song so far. Sometimes I just don’t know how these guys do it. These guys have such an amazing catalog of music that I can’t believe how good they continue be. This song reminds me of going to church on Sunday mornings as a kid with the soulful yet precise background vocals. Pat kills the drums and Dan does what Dan does.
4. Little Black Submarines– This song gives me the feeling of some of the old school Black Keys songs when Dan did a lot more bluesy crooning with a taste of The Beatles. I love the addition of energy in the second half of the song also.
5. Money Maker– Easy head nodder, like the opening track. Honestly I’ve been listening to these guys for too long to be overly impressed by this song. I like the two songs before this more simply because not only were they good songs but they offered something different for the long time fan. However virgin ears should like this a lot.
6. Run Right Back– Not feeling this one too much but it’s not a bad song. I’ve never heard a wack Keys song before but I can say this is probably their wackest song. I feel bad about saying that because I’m such a fan but I can’t be biased, I must give the people honesty.
7. Sister– This song got me back on track after two straight downers. Classic Keys style banger where Dan shows off his range changing tones and pitch throughout. This song displays one of the reasons they’re so good. Dan Auerbach is one of the most talented front men in the industry right now so he can make what would be just a song about a girl into a great song about a girl.
8. Hell Of A Season– I think Pat gets to shine on this one. He really manipulates the song in an amazing way throughout. I think its impossible to listen to this song without nodding your head constantly and its because Pat gets freaky with the beat. One of my favorites.
9. Stop Stop– Great song. Instant favorite. Once again Dan makes you wish you possessed his range as he howls out his vocals. I love when he sings in this tone, its very special and it reminds me of some of my other favorites such as Only One from the Magic Potion album.
10. Nova Baby– This is easily my favorite of the easy head nodders (I might need to make that an official term at this point) on this album. It doesn’t blow me away but it tries to. I mean this duo knows how to force you to rock with them by creating songs that naturally put your body into rhythm and your mouth into sing-along mode. They do it so much that it’s seemingly effortless.
11. Mind Eraser– I like this song simply for the fact that it gets me back in touch with my first Black Keys experience when the blues element of their style was a lot more prominent. That’s what originally got me hooked. I feel a little bit of Thickfreakness, their second album in this song. That was back when these guys were recording in Carney’s basement and the sound as a result was extra gritty, adding a very authentic blues vibe. A definite favorite and really appreciate it when they take us back like that, it shows they’re desire to stay true.
OK, I wrote alot in the intro so I’ll keep this short and sweet. El Camino is another good album by the Black Keys. First time listeners will definitely be pleased. Those who caught on with the last album Brothers may be a little disappointed because Brothers is still the better album but they shouldn’t be jumping off the bandwagon as El Camino still delivers some great music. Long time listeners will be the most disappointed because El Camino probably stopped the Keys trend of having each album be better than the last and if you’ve been listening since The Big Come Up or even Rubber Factory and on that’s obvious. However what the Black Keys purist should feel good about is that the sound is still intact. Their has been no drastic change to a more mainstream sound that many may have been expecting. Also there is no self indulgence or seemingly label forced music present on this album. For that we all can breathe a sigh of relief and hope that stays true as the band continues to grow. So when it’s all said in done I give El Camino a 7 out of 10. It’s not great but good and it can definitely find itself in my heavy rotation if the mood so strikes.
Gold On The Ceiling
Little Black Submarine
Hell Of A Season