Album Review: El Camino – The Black Keys
Ok before I start I best make a couple of things clear, firstly I am by no means a big fan of The Black Keys. Thats not to say I dislike them, I just dont have the soft spot for them that so many other people do. I should also maybe point out that I havent really liked the last couple of albums from the duo, in particular Brothers. To me that album felt a little too scrubbed up for the sake of public consumption. It felt as if that album was deliberately engineered to hook people in with its clean and poppy aesthetic. In certain places that feeling rears its head on El Camino, the bands seventh studio LP. But for the most part the record has the Black Keys sounding much more raw, soulful and earnest than they have in quite some time.
The record gets off to a great start with the booty shaking single “Lonely Boy” and carries on in fine hip shaking form for most of the album. In one sense it’s pretty typical fair from the garage rockers, but what it is interesting is some of the influences the band wear broadly on their sleeve. The echoed guitar twangs and note bending on tracks like “Dead and Gone” show shades of The Cramps. The soulful backing vocals on tracks like “Gold on the Ceiling”, are somewhat reminiscent of Mary Clayton’s contribution to “Gimme Shelter”. And there’s the all too blatant attempt at channelling Led Zeppelin on “Little Black Submarines”, despite it being a somewhat overly obvious nod the sound actually fits them quite nicely. Putting this aside, El Camino is pretty much standard Black Key’s fair except they sound tighter, the grooves are funkier and there overall demeanour and direction seems more straight forward.
El Camino isn’t going to convert me into a die hard fan of The Black Keys, at this stage I dont know if any album could. But it is easily my favourite Black Keys effort in quite some time. It’s a little scuzzier than previous outings, yet still works in plenty of catchy melodies that will keep you on your feet, dancing away the winter blues.