El Camino review by The Black Keys

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Dec 6, 2011
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 9.1 (80 votes)
The Black Keys: El Camino
0

Sound — 7
The Black Keys' sound is a success right from the off; hiring Danger Mouse to take care of production is commercially one of the most exciting things The Black Keys could have done for "El Camino". With names like Danger Mouse involved, The Black Keys have come a long way since their early days spent jamming bluesy rock songs in garages. It's fair to say that the involvement of Danger Mouse on this album preludes The Black Keys' biggest turn to pop music yet. That's not to take anything away from The Black Keys. They retain their quirky style and unique take on emotive songs. "Little Black Submarines" is particularly poignant in this respect; it's cute, dancing melody reliant upon the most minimal of guitar lines. Songs like "Money Maker" retain the bouncy fuzzy guitar riffs that helped to make the band popular, while "Run Right Back" is the sort of song that can turn the mainstream on its head. It's like a hallucinogenic journey, inspired by devilish guitars, sounding like The Clash for the 21st century. For a reggae-infused Black Keys' song, look no further than "Hell Of A Season", the song that won't give up in its subtle attempts to get you moving. It's deceptively bouncy, demanding a relaxed dance to go with it. Meanwhile, "Stop Stop" includes jangly, sharp guitars and a terrifically simple guitar solo after the chorus. This sounds like exactly the kind of song that only The White Stripes could dare to pull off better in this day and age. It's important to reserve special mention for the first track on the album, incidentally the first single from the album: "Lonely Boy". This is the single The Black Keys have threatened to release for a few years now, and I'm glad it's finally here. It is living (yes, I'm ascribing life to this song) proof that you don't need to overdo guitars with distortion to achieve a gritty, mucky, decadent rock n' roll noise. With bouncing bass lines and a terrific guitar solo, this is an excellent choice for a single. But what really stands out is the guitar riff played in a standoff with all the other instruments in the middle of the song. It's almost the most subtle battle musicians have contested among themselves since the 1980s. These songs make for tasteful rock n' roll: brief, beautiful, anything but benign. The Black Keys keep things moving, and you should move with them.

Lyrics — 7
Daniel Quine Auerbach is well-regarded for his vocal capabilities. He doesn't indulge in any unnecessary histrionics, his falsetto is subtle and lithe, and his voice is so far-removed from the perils of stereotype that I can't help but sit back and marvel at just how good a job he performs on this album. Vocally, the chorus of "Stop, Stop" is where Auerbach excels, making the transition from his usual laid back swoon to a falsetto so cool he get away with, well, whatever he wants, really. Lyrically, this is all on the simple side of things, but you won't find yourself singing along to more of any other album next year.

Overall Impression — 8
Overall Impression: It's the collaboration with Danger Mouse that really does it for me. The Black Keys are serious about taking over the mainstream, and you can be sure of the band's status as the next big arena rock band (if that status isn't already in play). It'll be intriguing to witness which of these songs the band next releases as a single. If truth be told, The Black Keys have recorded eleven fine songs, each of which could make a case for being a single. The only problem for The Black Keys is choosing.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hawk5211
    Cool, but why is the album cover a Ford van instead of an El Camino... Mind=blown.
    Superperfex
    At this point, they can do as they please. They already have an amazing catalogue. Albums like these are great to bring in different listeners, and to also have more variety in their sound.
    kgesme21
    Sound: The Black Keys' sound is a success right from the off; hiring Danger Mouse to take care of production is commercially one of the most exciting things The Black Keys could have done for "El Camino". With names like Danger Mouse involved, The Black Keys have come a long way since their early days spent jamming bluesy rock songs in garages.
    The Black Keys have had Danger Mouse as a producer on their albums since Attack & Release, you've made it sound like they just got him. But still, your point is valid.
    barden1069
    IIRC the album art is a pic of their old van they would tour in before they made it big. They just thought the words "el camino" sounded cool. They found out later that it means "the way" or "the road" in Spanish, which kind of gave it meaning.
    bastards
    +1 ^ I was like "wat?" when I saw the van, and didn't realize until I got here that it was an album. Crisis averted, UG.
    TimTheWizard
    kgesme21 wrote: Sound: The Black Keys' sound is a success right from the off; hiring Danger Mouse to take care of production is commercially one of the most exciting things The Black Keys could have done for "El Camino". With names like Danger Mouse involved, The Black Keys have come a long way since their early days spent jamming bluesy rock songs in garages. The Black Keys have had Danger Mouse as a producer on their albums since Attack & Release, you've made it sound like they just got him. But still, your point is valid.
    ^this. But they always do that in reviews so new fans would go like "OMG Danger Mouse? Mathmatical!" Like the album, kinda sucks they actually wannabe mainstream but it's their own choice
    booyahh415
    [quote]hawk5211 wrote: Cool, but why is the album cover a Ford van instead of an El Camino... Mind=blown.[/quote Dan and Patrick said that they named the album El Camino just because it sounded cool. The van in the cover is their old van they used to tour in. Dan and Patrick said they named the album El Camino just because it sounded cool, and the van in the picture is their old van they used too tour in.
    thejester
    very poppy sounding bouncy album. huge departure or evolution if you will from their old stuff. good for them
    xijack
    Great new record, but it shits me that he uses a pick now so much now
    mike_anderson25
    I've loved the Black Keys right from their first album and until now Thickfreakness was my favourite record of theirs (closely followed by Brothers). But El Camino....my god. I'm usually the first to lament a band moving away from their early raw sound but this instantly became my favourite Keys record.
    itsgoodtobefree
    There's too much Danger Mouse on the album. Sounds like Broken Bells a little with all the bells and backup vocals. I wish the Black Keys went back to being a duo.
    oklahoma pie
    This isn't the first album they've done that's produced by Dangermouse. "Attack and Release" has his name on it too and seemed just as poppy to me, so I wouldn't call this album a "turn to pop music" at all.
    MusicIsMySoul45
    You write this review like it's their first album with Danger Mouse. You know this is their third with him, right? Really not news. Great album, however. I loved it.
    andyscoot
    Love the album. Not a two piece anymore though. And in no way could The White Stripes pull off "stop stop". It's just not them. I wish people would group them together.
    Attack&Release
    pacf16 wrote: I really love this album, however, i miss their good old sound. While i feel happy for being around long enough to witness their evolution, i still hope they make something as raw as they did back in the day. But still, black keys are ****in awesome.
    I agreed, dude. They're old sound couldn't be beat. But Dan Auerbach said in Guitar World that "Traditionalism is the death of creativity". So Brothers or Attack&Release may have been the point of no return in terms of their stylistic changes
    majesty
    Great album, I personally like it better than 'Brothers'. 'Gold On The Ceiling' and 'Stop Stop' are damn catchy
    pacf16
    I really love this album, however, i miss their good old sound. While i feel happy for being around long enough to witness their evolution, i still hope they make something as raw as they did back in the day. But still, black keys are ****in awesome.
    mattiscool7337
    You write this review like it's their first album with Danger Mouse. You know this is their third with him, right? Really not news. Great album, however. I loved it. That's why my review's better i know my stuff, bro.