El Camino review by The Black Keys

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

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.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Fantastic album; up for my favorite of the year. Every song has hit single-potential, and it's interesting to hear the prominent use of keyboards and bass on the album. That said, I'm a little worried. Part of what I loved about The Black Keys was their huge sound with just two people. Amazing album, I just prefer them more as a duo.
    For anyone that still doubts that they have gone mainstream... You know how 3 and a half minutes is supposed to be the typical length for a song intended for the radio? You'll notice that the exactly average length of all the songs on the album is (yes I did calculate this) 3:29.5 But I think I like it better than any of their albums
    TimTheWizard wrote: 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
    +1 for the Adventure Time reference, -1 for saying it sucks to be mainstream. The fact that a band as fantastic as the Black Keys can be mainstream excites me. They serve as the antithesis of the "rock is dead" movement in every way, and I love it. You should too.
    it's been making me a little nuts.. the chorus in this song reminds, reminded me of something 'old'... thanks to 'unregistered'... i can now sleep... it's 'Stairway to Heaven' Landis.