Sound — 7
This is The Black Keys' 7th studio album and a tremendous departure from their original sound. While the obvious evolution in production and overall sonic landscape of their sound is quite obvious, there are other things that are not. The most notable aspect of The Black Keys' new sound is the change in rhythmic style. This is a shift that started with "Attack And Release" and seems to reach an apex with "El Camino". While one may posit that this is a product of the production style of Danger Mouse, I think that the current sound of The Black Keys is a product of natural development. Simple music has a lot of possibilities, but many limitations as well. The band's back catalog is largely based on old style juke joint and street corner blues. If they had continued down that same path, their sound might have stagnated, but they decided to reinvent themselves through several different avenues, finally arriving at "El Camino". "El Camino" is an album that embraces a classic rock style that almost borders on post-punk at times, rhythmically. Overall, it's paradoxically more straightforward rhythmically, and more complex melodically than much of the band's back catalog. Personally, I think their sound has been dumbed down quite a bit on this record. It's not bad, but it's not as ear catching as their previous work. Dan's voice doesn't match this style nearly as much as it does on "Rubber Factory" or "Chulahoma".
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are this record's strong point. They are melancholy and not overly so. To me it almost seems as if Dan's lyrical styling have changed very little over their 10 year career. The lyrics of the lead track and single "Lonely Boy" have motifs that harken back to songs such as "I Cry Alone" and "No Trust".
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, I find this album mediocre when compared to the back catalog of the band. The tracks are hit or miss, and the rhythms don't swing as much as they used to. That said, it's still one of the better albums released this year. The Black Keys are no longer a blues band, and that will open up many roads for them in the future. This album is very analogous to "Brothers", and that won them a Grammy. However, this album makes me lose hope of hearing again the band I fell in love with so many years ago.