Vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and Drummer/Producer Patrick Carney, better known as The Black Keys, have come to be synonymous with the term consistency. Since their start in 2001 with debut album, The Big Come Up the duo has really came up releasing six albums: Thickfreakness, Rubber Factory, Magic Potion, Attack & Release, Brothers, and their latest release El Camino.
The seventh album from The Black Keys, El Camino marks create difference for the duo — Auerbach built his studio, Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee moving the duo from their homeland of Akron, Ohio. Also, following the release of their sixth album, Brothers, which was a critically acclaimed mainstream project, it put a level of pressure on the two with creating this album.
In an interview with The New York Times writer Alan Light, Auerbach said, “For me, there were physical jitters about everything that was going on. Seeing how big the shows were getting, feeling like people were paying attention, kind of made me anxious, and I think that’s part of the reason these songs are so fast. I think we wanted to just muscle through it.”
That’s the feel listeners will get from the new album; it’s faster music, however with a somewhat more relaxed feel. The songs are more up-tempo, but as a whole still keep in mind the essence of what made The Black Keys a fan favorite, but there is a clear lack of the blues sound. The first single “Lonely Boy,” which was released this October, is a pretty arrogant and boastful song essentially bad-mouthing an ex-girlfriend; “Well I’m so above you, and it’s plain to see but, I came to love you anyway. So you tore my heart out and I don’t mind bleeding any old time you keep me waiting.” [Not bitter at all.]
“Dead and Gone,” will instantly put listeners in the mindset of “Tighten Up,” from their last album. The drum riffs that start the song, mixed with the “na-nas” that occur throughout, make this a definite highlight. The lyrics of this song will almost make listeners feel a little sympathetic for the ego trip on “Lonely Boy”; “Alone, why’d you wait for him so long? After every single word is said, I’m feeling dead and gone. Along, don’t you drag me along. If you do, you know I’ll follow you until the truth is known.”
“Run Right Back” finds a little bit of the blues-like essence that is mostly missing along the album, followed up by the moody and synthesized “Sister,” a song that speaks of female sympathy; “Sister, sister what did they do to you? Did they take they tried to break, very hard, very long. It’s so wrong, so wrong, so long.”
The last two album highlights come in the form of vintage vibe “Nova Baby,” and the familiar “Mind Eraser.” The thing that makes “Nova Baby,” an album highlight aside from the production and vocal performance from Auerbach are the lyrics; “All your enemies smile when you fall, you take it cause you don’t know what you want. You don’t know what you want. All this love of mine, all my precious time, you waste it cause you don’t know what you want.” Meanwhile, “Mind Eraser” is an album highlight solely due to the fact that it sounds fairly similar to the body of work on Brothers.
This album is a nice progression for the duo, and again a rather consistent effort. It will be interesting to see where their next album will lead them because as of now, they haven’t released any project remotely close to sub-par.