With the release of El Camino, the Black Keys have created their most accessible set of songs yet. Spurred by rocking tracks such as lead singles “Lonely Boy” and “Gold On the Ceiling”, the album marks a return for the band from the artsy, reserved sound that filled Attack & Release and the second half of their most recent album, 2010’s fantastic Brothers, to the blues-based rock that jump-started their career. All this adds up to make the album the perfect introduction for new listeners while still retaining the sound that avid fans have come to love.
When the state of the music industry is such that even Lil’ Wayne is considered to be Rock music, the Black Keys are a new-age throwback to the roots of the genre; a band that owes more to Howlin’ Wolf than Bon Jovi. What makes the band, and El Camino in particular special, is that its success is not due to nostalgia for the “good old days of rock”, but is based on the fact that the music is genuinely great. Their lyrics are not particularly deep (previous albums contain about 50% percent love songs), but Dan Auerbach’s searing guitar riffs and Patrick Carney’s pounding drums create some of the catchiest hooks to hit the radio in decades.
El Camino does little to break new ground for the band. It is 38 minutes of the Black Keys doing exactly what they do best. But when a band does it as well as the Black Keys do, that still creates one of the best albums of the year.