The Black Keys - El Camino

El Camino is by no means a bad album. Nor is it a bad Black Keys album. The major issue with El Camino is that it lacks the heights and greatness the band has reached previously. No band is always perfect, but sometimes these things are just matters of dilution. El Camino is the seventh studio album by the Akron, Ohio duo. And there seem to be signs here that their trademark blues-rock sound is growing slightly stale. Fans of the band, and I count myself as one, have experienced true greatness from Thickfreakness and Magic Potion, but even on 2008's Attack & Release there were tracks that felt only like they were there, rather than being there to dazzle. Part of it is that when you put out anthemic power-tracks like "Set You Free" and "Have Love Will Travel" some of the newer touches just never feel quite as strong. It's not the Weezer Effect, though, because El Camino is still infinitely listenable and much of it grows on you as you churn through it. Some tracks, though, sound a little like Beck/Eels take-aways. And others are just too muddled to be catchy.

But there are some powerful highlights. "Lonely Boy" has all the essential ingredients. It features thunderous drums and a continuous, powerful guitar riff with some quality blues-standard lyrics. Check it out below.

The Black Keys - Lonely Boy (RSD Exclusive) from wbrdigital on Vimeo.

"Dead and Gone" is another especially interesting track, with some sweet backing vocals that make the track memorable. And "Little Black Submarines" is great too, a delicate, heartfelt Led Zeppelin-esque acoustic ballad. And there's the catchy, whining "Run Right Back" too. El Camino is plainly solid for the most part, but it doesn't resonate quite the way Brothers did, or any of the great work they've done on their other 5 previous albums. What's most interesting is that The Black Keys refuse to stream the album on any of the usual services. No Spotify. No Grooveshark. No anything. Instead, the album is a buy only proposition, so I suggest giving it a try. If you are a fan of The Black Keys, then this is definitely a good buy. There are enough gems here to make it worthwhile. But if you expect a return to most recent form, you may be disappointed.

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