There's no such thing as being too well-established in the music industry and The Black Keys are proof of that. They have enjoyed critical success in their decade-long career but now it's time for the wider mainstream commercial market to get a taste of something that they would probably perceive as eccentric. It's happened with the Kings of Leon, too.The only difference is, these garage rock revivalists haven't lost many fans climbing the music charts across the globe ever since 2008's ‘ Attack & Release' and later, ‘Brothers' in 2010. With “El Camino” they are definitely attracting larger audiences and sales.
The infectious lead single and album opener Lonely Boy has a riff reminiscent of Cake, but only for so long that it can remind you of college rock. “Your momma kept you, but your daddy left you”, Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach's moaning carries on into ‘Dead and Gone', with a dreamy, soul-inspired tone set to Patrick Carney's steady stickwork.
There are classic signs of garage rock on “El Camino” like the organ in Gold on the Ceiling. Little Black Submarines invokes 1960s rock and roll. Auerbach's guitar tones are infused with so much twang and wah effects (Money Maker) that you can't help being transported to another era.
There is something delightfully grimy and raunchy about garage rock or whatever The Black Keys are making of it. Run Right Back has all that in the sound, and the lyrics. “Finest exterior/She's so superior, Oh But she won't allow/and I want it now.”
Hell of a Season starts out like Lonely Boy but becomes much softer, albeit with heavy drumming and much guitar noodling. I wouldn't have understood all the comparisons to the White Stripes if it wasn't for this song.In enlisting ace producer Danger Mouse (formerly of Gnarls Barkley), The Black Keys seem to have found themselves in the neo-soul area often with Stop Stop being a case in point. The closing track Mind Eraser leaves Auerbach's refrain of “Don't let it be over” ring on. Before you know it, you are reaching for the play button restarting the party that is ‘ El Camino'.
Bottomline: Retro-tinged rock with a bit of blues and soul thrown in for good measure.
El Camino, The Black Keys, Nonesuch records.