Black Keys – En Fuego con El Camino

Music Reviews 2012 – The Black Keys – El Camino

The Black Keys have done it again. In less than a year, they’ve gone from first time Saturday Night Live (SNL) guests….to returning veterans …..warmly enjoyed and relished by the SNL Cast and Crew. These guys–Dan Auerbach (guitarist/vocalist) and Patrick Carney (drums) are at the highest they’ve ever been…and still climbing.  The sky may be the limit….but they’re already soaring above the stratosphere.  Their new record, El Camino (and yeah, they know, it’s a crappy mini-van and not an El Camino), was released December 6th, 2011.

The new record is very good.  Said by one fan and i-Tunes critic…..this record is “groovier” than the others.   And it is.  Both, in the late 60s/early 70s sense of the term….since there are a few songs that hearken back a 60s/70s type feel…..and in the sense that the whole record delivers song after song of distinct and memorable grooves.

This record, without any of the band’s history that I embraced last year, would have sucked me in.   Two of the songs would have ensured that.  Little Black Submarine and Sisters took me immediately to my Black Keys favorites list.   They rock, they groove, and they do it with such style and irony.  Little Black Submarine spins you into this dark ballad about broken hearts being blind, for two and half minutes, only to diverge into a fiery, Zeppelinesque jam for the remaining minute and a half.  Broken hearts are blind…..and dammit they are intense too.   The ballad doesn’t get you quite there…..they had to infuse a pounding, incendiery groove to tell the rest of that story.

Sisters sets about beating you into submission on a relentless, pounding groove of its own…..arguably the grooviest of all the El Camino jams.  It is worthy~!  It finishes with a kind of Black Keys signature—Patrick Carney dropping his drumsticks on his snare as the final exclamation point to a song well-done.

The record’s album art, which famously isn’t a Chevy El Camino, ostensibly reflects the modest roots of the band.  The band apparently paid their dues and earned their chops riding around Ohio in a crappy mini-van back in their early days.  The Black Keys’ website is full of pictures of crappy mini-vans in broadside view.  Sort of one stop shopping for those missing their fix of wood paneling auto decor.   We all miss it.  The Keys are just doing their part to keep it alive.  Viva El Camino~!

El Camino is again produced by Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, who produced 2010’s phenomenally successful Brother’s CD.   El Camino picks up where Brother’s left off and demonstrates that the Black Keys can build upon their explosive successes. They still have that “grounded in the garage,” two man band thing going…..punctuated with extra musicians/instruments where they add value and make additional sense.  The Keys, in each form, can seemingly do no wrong lately.  It all works.

Even my colleagues on the ski mountain are jammin’ with ’em.  Some local snowboarders were rocking out to the Keys, enjoying the day today, offering to share their whiskey flask with me.   While I politely declined, I did concede that the Black Keys are a worthy companion to a whiskey punctuated day of snowboarding.

Perhaps that explains why snowboarders are predictably unpredictable.  The Black Keys are very predictable though.  In fact, they are on fire.  El Camino is hot, a sure winner.  And I can’t wait to see what they will do next.  I’m quite certain I’m not alone.  I predict that they’ll stay smolderin’ hot for awhile.

If you haven’t already, I’d suggest you check ’em out.

Support the Musicians you like! Enjoy JDPF

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