The Black Keys’ ‘El Camino’
- Article by: Daryl Sanders
- Posted: 12/07/2011
On their new album El Camino, blues-rock duo The Black Keys reunite with studio wizard Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and the result is another brilliant set of retro-fueled musical magic.
Danger Mouse worked with the duo on 2008’s Attack & Release, a rambling record far less focused musically than this album.
El Camino owes less to the raw-edged blues of Chicago than its predecessor Brothers, instead being most informed by the filtered blues-rock favored by British-invasion acts of the late ‘60s and early ’70s.
Burton serves as a de facto group member this time, not only coproducing, but also cowriting all 11 tracks with guitarist Dan Auerbach, and the collaboration yields a recording with more pop sensibility than any of their previous releases.
This is never more evident than on the opener, “Dead And Gone,” which features a singalong chorus (“I’ll go anywhere you go”) complete with wall-of-sound backing vocals, and on the poppy — for them — “Nova Baby.”
The group echoes classic British blues-rockers like the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers on a number of tracks, most notably “Gold On The Ceiling,” “Mind Eraser” and “Money Maker.”
The album’s first single, ‘Lonely Boy,” is a powerful and rootsy pop-rock anthem which continues the group’s penchant for songs about ex-girlfriends.
In somewhat of a departure, “Little Black Submarines” opens with a sparse arrangement featuring acoustic guitar, organ and tambourine reminiscent of Blind Faith before transitioning into a cacophony of guitars and drums and vocals.
The album concludes with the late-’60s-Motown-inspired “Stop Stop,” which is propelled by Patrick Carney’s machine-gun drumming.
Carney’s percussion work is stellar throughout the album, as are Auerbach’s guitar parts and Burton’s electronic stylings.
But as much of a sonic delight as El Camino is, it is the superb song cycle by Auerbach and Danger Mouse which lifts this record to lofty musical heights. Tracks like “Hell Of A Season” and “Sister” exemplify the artistic growth The Black Keys have undergone while staying true to their blues-rock roots.