in Review

The Black Keys – El Camino

The new Black Keys’ album is out and honestly I am not as excited about it as I thought I would be. Maybe it has something do with the fact that I’m a little burned out on The Black Keys or maybe it just doesn’t resonate with me as much as the stellar Brothers. Most people thus far seem to be hailing El Camino as another triumph on par with Brothers but I feel less enthusiastic. I enjoy it sure and in many ways it’s the most ambitious Black Keys record ever but it just doesn’t feel as sincere as past records.

In just a few years The Black Keys have risen from indie blues rock duo to a mainstream, grammy award winning, rock group and for the most part I welcome that. With that newfound success The Black Keys have complimented their stylings with a bigger and bolder sound. Changes have resulted in the band taking more time in the studio and in producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton more or less becoming the third member of the band producing and co-writing every song on the album, I suppose changes come in threes. The Black Keys’ bare bones approach to blues/rock is no more and in way that’s necessary but also a little sad.

It’s hard to describe, I do like this album but for whatever reason it doesn’t strike a chord with me. I love all the vintage sounds and retro techniques but aside from a handful of songs I don’t have that urge to listen to it again and again like I did with Brothers or going way back The Big Come Up. That being said there are still some songs here that I really enjoy. “Lonely Boy” is an excellent rock single as is “Dead and Gone” and I’m digging the bluesy female backup vocals. “Nova Baby” is easily my favorite track as it really doesn’t sound like anything the Keys have ever done before, pure pop bliss. Maybe my problem was that I wanted something unreasonably different, more indie pop oriented like Nova Baby and not so much big grandiose rock. So it’s probably a combination of desiring something more simple and also being a little burned out on the group I can’t seem to get away from.

I’m always a stickler for ratings, out of the 15 or so albums I’ve reviewed this year I think I only gave three albums 4 or more stars, so I’m sorry to put El Camino in that majority of 3 to 3 1/2 reviews but for now I agree with that. Could that rating change someday? Maybe, could I completely change my mind about this album someday? Maybe, all I know is that at this point in time it feels like an all too familiar rock record instead of something new and amazing. I’m glad to see The Keys have entered new pop/rock territory and with that being said I hope they continue to experiment because I’ll always be there to check it out no matter how burned out.

Favorite Tracks: “Dead and Gone”, “Lonely Boy”, “Nova Baby”

  1. The funny thing is you’re the only one of us who actually would go back and change the rating on a review. You put a lot of stock in those stars.

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