Album preview: El Camino - The Black Keys

By Chris Schulz

The Black Keys are back with quite possibly their best album yet. Photo / Supplied
The Black Keys are back with quite possibly their best album yet. Photo / Supplied

When the Black Keys pulled out of their performance at this year's Big Day Out citing exhaustion, they left a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of their Kiwi fans.

But all will be forgiven after just one listen to the Ohio band's new album, El Camino, due out here on Monday.

That's because El Camino might just be Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney's best record yet - and after 2010's Grammy-winning Brothers, that's really saying something.

"It changed our lives," drummer Carney told this week's edition of TimeOut about their 1.5 million-selling sixth record.

"Everything about our lives changed. On tour we went from worrying about how to get to the show to worrying about how many lights we had to have on stage and all that kind of shit."

Consistency and brevity is the key to El Camino, and with the addition of more keys and synths, and some rollicking good songs, like the blistering Gold on the Ceiling, it's a stunner from go to woah.

Forget about the Big Day Out or the Powerstation - the next time the Black Keys visit, they might just be playing in a suped-up stadium with as many lights as they want.

Check out nzherald.co.nz's track-by-track guide to El Camino:

Lonely Boy: You've already fallen in love with Derrick Tuggle, the crazy dancer from the Lonely Boy video that became a viral hit. It's worth falling love with the song too, a frenetic three minutes that cruises by on grizzly riffs, hummable melodies and those crazy dance moves.

Dead and Gone: The album's second track finds The Black Keys at their melodic best. Dead and Gone is full of Kings of Leon-style "Woah-oh-ohs" backed by Carney's thumping drums and Auerbach's haunting howls as he sings the line, "I'll go anywhere you go ... all the way".

Gold on the Ceiling: The album's best track opens with beautifully fuzzed out guitars and synths that erupt into a chorus that will knock you flat in two seconds. As for Auerbach's searing solo, you'll be playing air guitar in your bedroom like a 14-year-old hearing Nirvana for the first time.

Little Black Submarines: At four minutes Little Black Submarines is the album's longest track, and with its acoustic Johnny Cash-style intro, it's also the quietest. But the calm doesn't last long with a frenetic blitz of riffs crashing in at the halfway point.

Money Maker: The duo deliver a full-on garage fuzz-rock racket with a song that harks back to their humble Rubber Factory days. It's fair to say these boys haven't forgotten where they came from.

Run Right Back: Kicking off like a '70s Led Zeppelin anthem, Run Right Back soon kicks into a sub-rattling bassy rocker as Auerbach complains about another bad girl he can't quite shake. "She's the worst thing I've been addicted to," indeed.

Sister: "We've never written a song like that before," Carney told TimeOut about Sister, and he's right. Thanks to its foot-stomping chorus and synthy blasts, it's another huge album highlight.

Hell of a Season: Like most Black Keys songs, Auerbach's lyrics generally revolve around either falling in love, or breaking up. Hell of a Season seems to be the former with a more uplifting vibe, but the mid-song breakdown sounds like something from the band's Blakroc hip-hop sideproject.

Stop Stop: "This love was so strong, it should have been against the law," sings Auerbach over a grinding rhythm and some seriously whiny riffs. The chorus is as irritatingly catchy as a Muppets song - and it'll stick in your head for days.

Nova Baby: Like Brothers, the second half of El Camino definitely has a mellower vibe to the first. That's thanks to tracks like this, which comes on like one long singalong that will have the lighters being waved at live shows.

Mind Eraser: Grab a whisky and settle in at the bar for a bit of a heartbreaking tearjerker to close, as Auerbach repeatedly sings the line "don't let it be over" over some smooth blues boogie. Aww.

And that's it. Eleven tracks of beautifully realised rock and roll from the soon-to-be biggest band on the planet.

Don't believe it? Go listen to Gold on the Ceiling or Money Maker again, crank up the stereo and turn your neighbours into Black Keys believers.

They'll thank you for it. Then buy you a bottle of whisky.

Check out the video for Lonely Boy:

- Herald online

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