For four years, I committed myself to driving past the ‘El Camino Farm.’ On a certain stretch of the Lincoln Highway west of York, a middle-aged man has 30 some El Caminos parked in his front lawn. One can only wonder if he has them permanently fixed there or, for heaven’s sake, maybe he even grew them there. Who knows? Any conclusion is acceptable at this point. The situation is ironic either way considering that El Camino is Spanish for “the pathway” (or “the road”). Though Chevy altered the vehicle through several generations, it’s difficult for an untrained eye to pick the first out from the last, even as they are lined up beside each other. That’s primarily because the ‘car’ has one distinguished trait: a truck bed. But hey, why mess with a good thing? The El Camino is a classic badass car.
In a wave of fresh, ever-changing indie music, The Black Keys are, well, a regular breath of air. Their newest LP, ‘El Camino’, is filled with great blues licks, cool crunchy chords, killer beats, and witty lyrics – just like all of the band’s preceding albums. With the band finally breaking through with their 2010 album, ‘Brothers’, they really don’t have much of a reason to change it up either. A travel junkie knows that while sites and monuments change from one location to another, the road itself can begin to look a lot the same. So in some ways, The Keys picked a perfect album title to describe sound: the same old stuff moving forward flawlessly.
Lonely Boy By The Black Keys
‘El Camino’ fires up all eight cylinders starting with the first single of the album, “Lonely Boy,” and any fan will gratefully pray to their music gods for another stellar set of blues rock songs. It’s definitely one that sets the precedence for the rest of the tracks by establishing an energetic and playful mood for such a depressing topic. On “Run Right Back,” Auerbach actually takes some liberties on changing his guitar tones, which helps punch up the song. The lyrics in this track are also particularly clever, the favorite being, “Well she’s a special thing. She doesn’t read to much, but there’s no doubt she’s written about.” Auerbach also pulls a new hat trick out in “Money Maker,” as he delivers a mean talk box solo. “Nova Baby” is actually the one “un-traditional” song on the album (as “Psychotic Girl” is to ‘Attack and Release’). The song has a sort-of Killers vibe going on, mainly because of the keyboard. The bass and drums periodically do a little shuffle off the beat, which keeps your attention well. One of the great things about the song though is Auerbach’s solo. He ends the song by abandoning his blues roots and picking up a melodic lead that sings astoundingly well with the chords and keys behind it.
However, the best song on the album is probably “Hell of a Season.” Carney’s beat drives the song through the beginning and while it’s a bit repetitive, before you have a thought of boredom, the song kicks into this classic Clash-like breakdown. In one little measure, you’re reminded of an entire artist’s discography. This is probably the strongest trait of The Black Keys and the reason they’re so wildly successful as of late. One doesn’t know how many moments there are in Brothers where one is reminded of U2, Radiohead, or even Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, pt. 2,” but you don’t feel cheated by listening to these re-hashed ideas. They’re cleverly twisted and sit with me more as a homage than a rip-off. Very few bands are able to pull that off once, less alone the number of times The Black Keys have done it.
So the album really should be considered another instant classic by a band with a contemporary & classic sound. And none of that should make sense, but here we are listening to a blues rock duo slammed in the middle of the eclectic indie music scene. Now though, they are respected by most, an impressive feat. We don’t know how many hits they have left in them or how many albums they can write, but this author is confident that their sound will never be outdated. And in another 10 years, there will be a guy somewhere near the road with 30 some Black Keys albums sprawled out on his front lawn, displayed proudly for the passer-bys.