Rock n’ Roll resurfaced in the last decade with a healthy collection of bands bringing distorted, fuzzy riff-based tunes back to the airwaves. However, The Black Keys can take the trophy for moving up to the forefront of this resurrection with increasingly greater speed and popularity than anyone else. The newest album El Camino only proves that the Ohio duo intends to stretch this wave as far as possible. Back in 2002 with their first release, their non-descript look, garage sound and obvious motifs in their lyrics – like classic blues songs, invariably the theme comes back to how seductive and yet painful a woman’s cruelty can be – couldn’t have been foreseen to go far. And yet everyone from Barack Obama has employed one tune or another from these guys. Even if you’ve never heard of them, you’ve heard them somewhere. Tunes crafted for direct and instantaneous response are the forte of The Black Keys, and they’ve perfected this modus operandi. It still amazes me how unabashed they guys are about building songs on the catchiest riffs and very often the simplest, albeit incomparably intense, beats. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing cheap here. Yet, when you compare El Camino to Brothers, Attack and Release, or even Blakroc (a collaborative album with different hip-hop and rap artists), El Camino just blends in instead of standing out. The black sheep of this album would be Little Black Submarines, which begins soft and acoustic and builds up into an electric flourish, almost like a Led Zeppelin song. Even Dan Auerbach’s solo carries more energy than on other tracks. Numbers like Money Maker and Run Right Back are so immediately catchy and fun, I suspect they will be played at hockey matches or in a cell phone ad. So be it, I say. Listen to what you dig, and you’ll like El Camino.
Key Tracks: Sister, Little Black Submarines, Gold on the Ceiling
Moods: Passionate, Energetic, Playful, Raucous, Rousing, Swaggering
Buy: El Camino
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