The Black Keys – El Camino

5 Dec

I was introduced to the Black Keys in college in 2004 right after the release of “Rubber Factory” by a girl who was trying to court yours truly.  Like a modern-age Duckie, she decided that burning a copy of her favorite new album would win the key to my heart.  Instead, I listened to the album, liked it a lot, and then stopped answering her texts like a total jerkoff.  She was wrong about me being cool, but she was right about the Black Keys.

The Black Keys have been going strong since 2002 and have set themselves apart from some of their at-one-time peers.  “El Camino” is their seventh LP and they have little to apologize for in their catalog with the un-compelling “Attack & Release” as the only possibly exception.  The duo of Dan Auerbach (guitarist/vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) always create an impressive soundscape despite being a two-piece (probably why they were always likened to the White Stripes).  “El Camino,” though a little over-the-top at times, is a ton of fun.

I was impressed with the album’s accessibility after reuniting with Danger Mouse as a producer; not to say that Danger Mouse steered them in the wrong direction, but I was skeptical after 2008’s “Attack and Release.”  The songs are tighter and well produced.  Sure, the lyrics aren’t great if not downright cheesy at times, but I would like to chalk that up to the overall glam feel to the album; intentional cheese is hardly cheese.

As a whole, “El Camino” is like listening to a classic rock radio station in a poorly restored American muscle car and hearing nigh a dozen familiar riffs and refrains.  There’s Led Zeppelin, ELO, Canned Heat, ZZ Top…and Tom Petty on “Little Black Submarines” amped up finale, the Frampton guitar on “Money Maker,” T. Rex’s Marc Bolan could have easily sexy-hummed the chorus on “Run Right Back,” and the last track might as well have been called “Witchy Woman’s Mind Eraser.”  It’s a far cry from the grease-stained denim, garage Allman Brothers of the Black Keys’ earlier albums, but it’s not bad…

“El Camino” is the type of record that you listen to and are frustrated at first by how catchy some of the tracks are and then realize that you’re enjoying yourself.  It’s too pop/rock to be indie blues anymore.  It’s too produced to be garage.  Take it for what it is: an above average rock album.  If you want to hate on “indie rockers” for making salable records, go ahead.  Start writing for Pitchfork…

And I cannot tell you how many times I’ve mistakenly typed “The Black Keyes” in the past 45 minutes.  It got me to thinking…


This one is definitely worth a listen.  Is it their best record?  No, but it’s still damn good.  The last lyric in “Mind Eraser” is “Don’t let it be over.”  Part of me didn’t want it to be over either.

Rating: ****

Tracks of note: “Lonely Boy,” “Dead and Gone,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Sister,” and “Mind Eraser”

“Dead and Gone”

2 Responses to “The Black Keys – El Camino

  1. burnalittledeeper December 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    you really are a modern age Duckie.


  1. Top 51 Tracks of 2011 « the self-hating hipster - January 22, 2012

    […] Black Keys El Camino was another record that I actually found time to review this year.  The album’s final track, “Mind Eraser,” happens to be one of the […]

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