This is a guest post by MirbyGnits, who previously reviewed The Black Keys’ Brothers album for the Fan Lounge.
After ten years, three record labels, six albums, three Grammy Awards, and hundreds of shows on a handful of continents… how much gas can The Black Keys possibly have left in the tank? El Camino is the seventh album by The Black Keys, and rather than slow down, they’ve wisely chosen to bury the needle. According to recent interviews, the band decided to go into the studio with a blank slate rather than write songs ahead of time. Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton is along for the ride, and his presence and style are definitely felt.
El Camino is faster than anything The Black Keys have done before, and for the most part – it works. Very rarely does it feel like a song is being rushed or doesn’t have room to breathe. You’ll find quite a mixed bag of influences within. Most notable are elements of 70’s and 80’s rock, pop, glam, punk, disco, soul and even a dash of reggae. Flashes of everything from Billy Joel and Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and beyond. The tones, textures, and sound quality of the album are superb.
Overall, El Camino’s vibe is considerably less dark and spooky than much of the band’s previous work. I’d even describe it musically as “fun” or “happy” – which would actually make a lot of sense, since Dan and Patrick seemingly have little left to prove these days. It’s definitely an album to sing and dance to, and that’ll come in handy because the ‘Keys are playing to larger crowds than ever before. Songs like “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” are going to absolutely KILL live. In fact, most of the songs on this album seem to have been written with the live performance in mind.
“Run Right Back” has a crunchy delicious groove and is undeniably catchy. It’s literally been stuck in my head since I first heard it. And “Sister” (which is probably my favorite on the album right now) is a bonafide ass-shaker that can easily strut toe-to-toe with the King of Pop’s “Billie Jean” – and THAT is one hell of an accomplishment. “Little Black Submarines” is an epic beast of a song that starts out strategically soft and quiet, but builds up into a fiery runaway freight train of classic rock goodness.
El Camino does have its share of disappointments too, however. Songs like “Hell of a Season” and “Dead and Gone” are far from filler, but they definitely don’t grab you like the rest of the album does. And “Stop Stop” (which reminds me a little bit of “Get Ready” by The Temptations) is a great track, and supremely soulful, but it’s just BEGGING for some horns. I would really like to see that one done up live with a horn section.
While it may not be their absolute best work to date, it’s still as good or better than anything anyone else has put out this year, and I’d be happy to find my stocking stuffed with a copy this Holiday season. Solid effort.
- Review: The Black Keys @ The Pyramid Rock Festival New Years Eve 2008
- El Camino: Which Songs Will Form The Black Keys’ New Tour Setlist?
- El Camino: The Black Keys’ New Album Cover, Track Listing, Livestream, Press Release, Fan Reaction
- New Album: The Black Keys El Camino December 6
- El Camino: The Black Keys’ Lonely Boy single released