The Black Keys | El Camino

Nonesuch (2011) 
By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER  |  November 29, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars


El Camino has the unenviable task of following up last year's Brothers, but instead of trying to outdo its acclaimed predecessor, it scales things back and cranks up the volume. Taking another ride around the block with Danger Mouse in the producer's seat, the Black Keys let their blues stomp take up nearly the whole record. When the duo last went down this road, it was in 2007 and the trip resulted in the mixed bag Attack & Release, an experiment that, good or bad, was attributed to the odd decision to work with the Mouse (a/k/a Brian Burton). This time offers quite the contrast, with singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney rarely wavering from a rock-and-roll beat; just listen to the thumping immediacy of "Gold on the Ceiling" and lead single "Lonely Boy." The only time they ease up on the throttle is during "Little Black Submarines," and even then it's just a brief reprieve. The first half of the song echoes Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Back Home," mainly in how the melody half-steps around Auerbach's vocal pattern. But that's simply a precursor to more bombast and fuzzed-out guitar shenanigans. While primarily retaining a forward groove, the album still makes some jumps to and fro in style. "Run Right Back" channels the ghost of blues-guitar ace R.L. Burnside, and "Hell of a Season" effortlessly invokes a '60s dance-party feel. Burton provides keyboards on many tracks, but even as there's a joyful boisterousness in "Nova Baby," it's belied by an accusatory post-break-up theme. The trick to El Camino is how steady it runs; whereas past left turns have been distractions, this is what happens when the pedal is floored.
Related: Photos: Black Keys at Bank of America Pavilion, The Big Hurt: Alternative rock songs, Trans Am | What Day Is It Tonight? Trans Am Live, 1993 - 2008, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys,  More more >
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