El Camino- The Black Keys

Release Year: 2011

Rating: 9/10

The Black Keys has had a loyal following since their 2002 debut, but they were still appealing to a selective crowd. Their fanbase grew bigger with their later albums, but with this release they exploded on the mainstream. Suddenly, your sister who only listens to Katy Perry and LMFAO was blasting Black Keys from her car. Whether the original fans love or hate the new found love the band has received, it proves that they are too talented to ignore.

This is the band’s most accessible album to date. It will not only appeal to the garage rock and blues fans, it’ll also appeal to the rock, pop, and r&b fans. The Black Keys are known for their raw blues sound, but on this album they decided to experiment with different styles of music. Their blues sound isn’t totally absent, but it takes a back seat to let other musical styles shine on the record. Some fans may be disappointed with their new sound, but either way the songs are still mind blowing.

The album opens with the popular “Lonely Boy.” It starts with this great sliding riff on the guitar before the drums come rushing in. This song stays pretty true to their blues sound, but it also manages to mix in a bit of rockabilly. The song is also a new sound for the band because of its upbeat. It’s actually something you can dance to, as the video for the single proves. It’s also catchy. You can easily sing along with the chorus, especially since Auerbach’s vocals are softer this time around.

It’s pretty clear that the band was more focused on catchy melodies and vocal harmonies here. The lyrics seem to have a central theme of women doing men wrong by way of heartbreak and manipulation, but they’re also pretty simple. “Dead and Gone” and “Gold on the Ceiling” are both very catchy songs, especially with the former starting out with an infectious “nah nah.” Not only do the harmonies and the slick guitar riffs make these songs catchy, the simple chorus helps too. For the most part, the hooks have simple lyrics that repeat several times. This doesn’t take anything away from the songs, but it’s definitely a step away from their past material.

One song that stands out in sound is “Little Black Submarine.” For one, it’s the only slow track on the album. The first half of the song has a somber and hushed tone. This part sounds intimate since it’s only Auerbach singing softly while playing an acoustic guitar. The tone and vibe of the song is very reminiscent of “Stairway to Heaven.” Personally, I also think there’s a nod to “Aqualung” as well with how the strong vocals. Halfway through the song, the pace picks up, the drums come in, and the electric guitar takes over. It happens abruptly, but it manages to keep the song interesting. It’s an amazing song, that brings you back to classic rock period of the 60’s.

As mentioned before, the band explore new sounds on this album. Along with blues and rockabilly, the songs have influences from rock, pop, and r&b. “Stop Stop” sounds like a classic Motown pop song, especially with the back up singers sharing vocal duties. The music is also lighter here, which lends to this vibe. “Money Maker” has a rockabilly/surf rock sound with a solo that has a psychedelic vibe. It’s another song that makes you dance, while “Nova Baby” has an overall pop sound. The music is bright and cheery even though the song itself deals with a break up. It’s another song that’s easy to sing along to. “Hell of a Season” on the other hand, has more of a rock feel with intense guitars and heavy drumming. All these different styles may leave older fans disappointed, but the band manages to pull it off without completely abandoning their classic sound.

Overall, the album gets 9/10. This is an excellent album that is sure to get you into the band to the point where you look up all their other albums in their catalog. Some things have change for the band on this record, but not in a bad way. Different sounds permeate the songs and the songs themselves are catchy and make you want to dance. This is an album that anyone can pick up and easily get into. Every song is a hit, meaning you don’t want to skip a single track. This shows that The Black Keys are on an unstoppable roll. Hopefully, they can keep it up.


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