‘El Camino’ by the Black Keys along with ‘Bad As Me’ by Tom Waits and Florence + The Machine’s ‘Ceremonials’, was one of the most anticipated album releases for me in some time. And all three released in the later part of last year and each one of them is delightful – a sort of Christmas feel-good (can’t call it a gift now, can I, seeing as I had to pay for these?).
The Black Keys have consistently produced high quality albums with a distinct, identifiable sound. So much so, I read they have a patented lo-fi production technique. Yet their sound has gradually changed, evolved over the years. Which is why I eagerly await their new album releases. This one, I suspect, their hardcore fans may not like too much. Me, I love this as much as, or even more than, their earlier works. In a change that was first noticeable (I think) in their previous outing on ‘Brothers’, ‘El Camino’ has a fuller sound as compared to some of their earlier albums. Patrick Carney still throws more wallop than a drum kit ought to take without protest and Dan Auerbach’s guitar has lost nothing of its snarl yet the music here is brighter (which does not necessarily extend to the lyrics all the time) with enhanced instrumentation in contrast to the starkness of the older albums. Here’s the blues accompanied by one of its lovely bastard children, R&B. You’ll hear loads of it right through this album mixed in with that typical growly Black Keys sound.
The album kicks off with ‘Lonely Boy’ whose insistent beat should inspire some wild moves on the floor. Ditto ‘Stop, Stop’ which almost has a disco feel to it while still retaining the rock edginess. Don’t ask me why, but I think Auerbach acquires shades of Bono in his singing on ‘Sister’. While all the songs in the album have the characteristic urgency of the band’s music, there’s just a short – about 2 minutes – relenting in the first part of ‘Little Black Submarines’ before the manic energy of the duo changes all that quietness into a mighty roar. For all the abundance of great songs, my favourite track on the album though is ‘Run Right Back’. The unhinged guitaring on this song is the perfect sonic accompaniment to the vision of a madly careening car chase.
P.S.: I had almost shelved writing this piece after Download Central (that I follow regularly) carried a post on the band and this release about a week back. But then, I have something else to say about it. So I decided to spill it 🙂