The Black Keys: El Camino

by Christian Redl

Rating: 4/5

Song to Watch Out For: Little Black Submarines

After ten years and seven albums, The Black Keys have finally reached the      big stage. It has been a difficult road for them, from starting out playing   gigs in adult book stores for travel money in order to go on tour to being featured in movies, commercials, and winning Grammys. Their newest album, El Camino, is by far their most complex and intricate album, being produced by big league producer Danger Mouse.

The Black Keys combine the essence of the 1970’s with sounds influenced by The Clash, Southern Rock, and just a pinch of some good old-fashioned Rock n’ Roll. The album starts off with “Lonely Boy” and The Black Keys immediately throw a raunchy opening riff that smacks you in the face, waking you up. This riff sets the tone for the rest of the album, as it is reminiscent of an early Link Wray jam. From “Lonely Boy,” the album never takes its foot off of the gas and slams you with a brilliant fusion of preliminary Punk, Gospel, and Blues sounds. That is…until “Little Black Submarines”.

The last track on the A side brings the album to a whole different aural level. Played in two sections, it is The Black Keys’ “Stairway to Heaven”. The track starts off melancholy and subtle and then, all of a sudden, it erupts into a gritty guitar solo, reminiscent of Paige and all of his glory. The Black Keys have always been keen on captivating woe and heartache, spouting the line, “Everybody knows a broken heart is blind.” These two boys are the heart, body, and soul of contemporary blues music. Pat Carney, the drummer, harnesses his inner John Bonham and gives us a raw garbage can drumbeat that makes the song so visceral it shakes you to your core. That is what the Blues are all about. This record picks up where The Eagles left off, bringing us an album that sounds better when cranked up to eleven while driving down Route 66.

“Gold on the Ceiling” makes you want to shake what your momma gave you, and may also result in the sporadic purchase of a Harley Davidson, but that’s a chance you take when you listen to The Black Keys.

This band has come a long way, from recording in basements and abandoned tire making factories to adding so many more elements to their sound as the years have passed. My only complaint on this album is that what The Black Keys have added in complexity, they have lost in diversity. But when an album rocks as hard as this one does, why change it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.