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December 5, 2011 / jhsaeger

Tuesday’s Best: Black Keys Take New Road in El Camino

   For ten years, The Black Keys have etched out a career as one of the hardest-working bands in music, incrementally raising their profile with each new album and tour.  A garage-rock band from Akron, Ohio, the bluesy duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have cut six studio albums, a powerful cover album of Junior Kimbraugh songs, and the well-received hip-hop collaboration, Blackroc.  
   The band’s seventh record, El Camino hits this week as one of the most anticipated records of 2011.  El Camino sticks to The Black Keys’ concise style, sporting 11 tracks and a running length of 38:23, with only one song eclipsing the four-minute mark.  Two tracks from El Camino, “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” are a brief departure from the duo’s usual style.  Very pop-savvy, both songs are laced by funky-sounding keyboards which give a new dimension to the band.  “Lonely Boy” is the group’s fastest song yet, as Carney keeps a brisk drum beat that mandates three minutes of incessant foot-tapping.  “Gold on the Ceiling” contains the killer chorus, “They wanna get my/gold on the ceiling/I ain’t high/Just a matter of time/before you steal it/It’s alright.”
   “Little Black Submarine” is El Camino’s – and maybe The Black Keys’ – most epic-sounding track.  Auerbach sings with a Robert Plant style of phrasing against a quiet beat from Carney before the song’s lengthy crescendo unmasks the duo’s raw power. 
   In “Money Maker,” Auerbach writes a terrific series of well-turned phrases, telling the tale of a woman who “was milk and honey, oh she was filthy money.”  Another track, “Sister” could have been reshaped onto their Blackroc collaborations, as Carney lays down a brilliant backbeat throughout.  
   The last 19 months have been a bit of a whirlwind for The Black Keys.  After releasing their seminal album Brothers last May, they recorded El Camino amidst a heavy touring schedule.  While Brothers was their true breakthrough album, El Camino will cement The Black Keys’ position as one the biggest rock bands in the world.  It may sound like gushing over Auerbach and Carney, but the duo is clearly onto something special as they have clearly left behind the Plymouth Voyager (their first touring van which decorates El Camino’s cover) for greener pastures.  
Other Stuff That Hits This Week: 

The Roots: Undun, Amy Winehouse: Lioness, Elvis Costello: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, Robin Thicke: Love After War

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