The Black Keys – El Camino

by Erica Moser (Journalism), published December 13th 2011

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

With El Camino, their seventh studio album, The Black Keys adhere to the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The album, with its title translating to “the way,” is abundant with The Black Keys’ trademarks: catchy guitar riffs, a groovy beat, and Dan Auerbach’s perpetually alluring voice.

Yet, it hasn’t gotten old. El Camino, at nearly 18 minutes shorter than last year’s Brothers, amps up the rock and trades some of their soul flair for funk; but it remains true to the sound that has continuously brought them acclaim from critics and fans. The two-man band of Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney achieves a full sound, one that comes across as effortless, proving that less can be more.

The album opens with the early single “Lonely Boy,” an upbeat jam with a rousing pop chorus. Auerbach sings, “I’m a lonely boy” in a way that makes you question why he wouldn’t have people flocking to keep him company. And only he could make so many whoas and oohs sound like a language in their own right. Throughout the record, The Black Keys strike a balance between anticipation of the familiar – like seeing old friends who haven’t changed – and the element of surprise, evident in voices fading into psychedelic harmonies and abrupt tempo changes.

One of the enjoyable parts of listening to The Black Keys is the sense that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They seem to relish in humorously overblown and gaudy lyrics, such as “oh, she was milk and honey / oh, she was filthy money” on “Money Maker.” They sound like they’re really just having fun, and when it comes to rock and roll, that’s the best you can ask for.

Recommended tracks: Lonely Boy, Gold on the Ceiling, Little Black Submarines, Nova Baby

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