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Album Review
El Camino

El Camino
by The Black Keys

Nonesuch Records/Warner Music

Review Date
13th January 2012
Reviewed by
Alistar Wickens

The Black Keys are back and better than ever with El Camino, their 7th studio, album. Another collaboration with legendary producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, Gorillaz) it builds on their last work together, 2008’s Attack & Release.

There are moments on El Camino where the hand of Danger Mouse is overwhelmingly evident. It’s in the flourishes, the bells and whistles and in the depth of the sound (a depth that was lacking in earlier albums). It’s the group of female backing singers, the funky organs, the handclapping and tambourine shaking that really distinguishes this album from its predecessors; all the while the trademark buzzing guitar and thudding drums remind us that the Black Keys are still very much in command of the essence of their sound.

Never afraid to step outside their blues rock origins, The Black Keys will mix in anything that adds to the listening experience, incorporating funk, soul and hip hop influences. Despite that, they never lose sight of where they started and always deliver up a unique take on the blues.

There’s still the rawness we first heard on their 2002 debut The Big Come Up, and through the albums that followed, but there’s a new optimism in the music that hasn’t been heard before. Even songs that have darker subject matter, like the opener 'Lonely Boy' or 'Money Maker', have an upbeat feel to them that shows another side to their music.

El Camino shows just how far The Black Keys have come, and how much potential they still have to explore their sound and push the boundaries of blues rock. Some hailed Attack & Release as their breakthrough album when it came out, but it should be El Camino that they’re always remembered for.


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