The Black Keys are not your typical rock stars. It’s no wonder critics have deemed them the Clark Kent and Peter Parker of the rock scene. Dan Auerbach (vocals and guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) may look ordinary from the outside, but once they start to jam, you are suddenly transported into some kind of twisted spaghetti western you’ll want to stay in.
Their seventh album together, El Camino, is the Keys’ much anticipated follow-up to 2010’s Brothers, the album that earned them three Grammy Awards, including Best Alternative Music Album. Suddenly, The Black Keys were the soundtrack of pretty much every movie that came out in 2011 (think The Dilemma and Limitless, among others), as well as at least one beer ad (Molson M features “Tighten Up”). And with El Camino they strike again.
The first single, “Lonely Boy,” is a delicious melange of rock and soul that you won’t be able to get enough of. The lyrics are rather sombre (“So you tore my heart out / And I don’t mind bleeding/ Any old time you keep me waiting”) but an energetic “oh-oh-oh I gotta love that keeps me waiting” propels the song into catchy rock heaven. Loneliness never sounded so appealing and most importantly, so fun.
The theme of loneliness is persistent throughout El Camino, but it is a celebration rather than a lament. “Lonely Boy” is followed up by “Dead and Gone,” in which Auerbach sings “After every word you say / I’m feeling dead and gone.” It’s a hard-and-heavy piece, softened by the singer’s trademark moan. Patrick Carney’s drumsticks know their way around Auerbach’s beat-up howl and turn a song about a broken heart into a thumping garage anthem.
The album continues on a high with “Gold on the Ceiling,” which begins with that very familiar buzz that you heard on Brothers’ “Howlin’ For You.” The song is part rock, part gospel, and includes back-up female vocals.
“Little Black Submarines” begins as a smoky ballad, which sounds a lot like the stuff Auerbach wrote for his solo album Keep it Hid back in 2009. “A broken heart is blind,” he laments just before the song lifts itself up and Carney once again provides it with solid drums.
Trial tracks: “Lonely Boy,” “Little Black Submarines,” “Run Right Back,” “Sister”
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