The Black Keys' 'El Camino': What the Critics are Saying

6:05 PM PST 12/06/2011 by THR Staff
Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Bethesda Softworks

The band’s seventh album hit shelves on Dec. 6, shooting straight to the top of iTunes.

The Black Keys released their seventh album, El Camino, via Nonesuch Records on Tuesday, Dec. 6 against Amy Winehouse’s posthumous Lioness: Hidden Treasures, T-Pain’s Revolver and The Roots’ concept album, Undun.

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El Camino quickly shot to the top of the iTunes album chart, trailed by Michael Buble’s Christmas. Winehouse, The Roots and Chevelle’s Hats Off to the Bull rounded out the top five at the time of publication.

At the end of a banner year, which saw the duo winning three Grammy Awards for Brothers, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney continue to move forward earning rave reviews with their latest release. Below, read what the critics are saying about El Camino.

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“On past Black Keys albums, the duo sounded effortlessly vintage-cool, a time capsule for what the blues-steeped genre of rock'n'roll used to be. On new album El Camino, out today (Dec. 6), the band tries -- perhaps a little too hard -- to sound "retro," from throwback surf-rock riffs to kitschy organ accents and more handclapping than Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. They're still channeling classic rock, but now it's more T. Rex than Cream… It's an impossible standard to expect a band not to evolve musically over the course of 10 years, and to not go in the way of what has made them more popular. With that said, the 11 tracks on El Camino are as catchy -- but perhaps more importantly, TV/film-synch ready -- as anything climbing up the Rock Songs or Alternative Songs charts, and are probably more carefully crafted to sound that way. The Black Keys don't mess around.” -- Billboard

El Camino is the Keys' grandest pop gesture yet, augmenting dark-hearted fuzz blasts with sleekly sexy choruses and Seventies-glam flair. It's an attempt at staying true to the spirit of that piece-of-shit minivan on the album cover -- similar to their first touring vehicle -- while reimagining it as a pimpmobile… There's still a strange jukebox anonymity to the Keys' approach; their vintage organ and guitar sounds often project larger personae than the band itself. But part of the reason Carney and Auerbach keep finding new ways to shake up that old-school blues-rock rumble is that they're workaday dudes smart enough to get out of the way of their own songs. Like Clark Kent's or Peter Parker's, their 99 percentness only seems to enhance their powers.” -- Rolling Stone

“It feels a little funny to gush so outwardly about a record, like the critical capacities are failing when enthusiasm takes over. But sometimes, a CD scratches an itch you didn't even know you had, and El Camino is that record; it stands alongside the Strange Boys' criminally underrated Live Music as evidence that a few dudes still know how to party smartly with guitars and snarl. It's a summer record released in the winter, a dance record that just happens to rock, a rock record that fans of LCD Soundsystem will dig. It's a party record, a driving down the highway, “I'm in love with rock and roll, and I'll be out all night” record.” – LA Times

“Previous Black Keys releases have dwelled on the themes of love, betrayal and existential worry that have long haunted American roots music. El Camino the band’s seventh full-length release, finds it returning to this terrain with no diminishment of inspiration… As with AC/DC, a group with whom the Black Keys have something of a spiritual kinship, subtle variations on a few unimpeachable musical themes help keep the band consistently exhilarating.” -- Washington Post

“At a time like this, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney might be forgiven for trading their minimalist sound for something a little more, well, maximum. Instead, they've teamed up with longtime producer Danger Mouse to do what they do best: make a small-room racket that sounds massive enough for a bigger-is-better world. "El Camino" trades the soulful stylings of "Brothers" for harder-driving, faster-riffing rock & roll: Opener ''Lonely Boy'' is all quick-shimmying drums and raunchy guitars; ''Gold on the Ceiling,'' with its swarm-of-bees organs and acid-trip gospel harmonies, could be a lost Nuggets gem.” – Entertainment Weekly

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