The Black Keys' El Camino: A First Listen

Categories: First Listens

The-Black-Keys-El-Camino-500.jpg

No matter what you've read, the Black Keys are as generic as Kings of Leon. The super-successful Brothers was a good record, but didn't escape its own sameyness by the time you're waiting for it to be over. And their success only speaks to the market's sore vain need for a famous rock band right now. I need one, too -- but frozen food-section White Stripes isn't it. Prove me wrong, El Camino.

"Lonely Boy"
An interesting detuning bass slurp kicks things off before turning quickly into a less interesting chorus: "I've got a love that keeps me waiting." Everything's predictable in that futurist-tasteful Danger Mouse way. A big shiny synth organ riff and stiffly quantized drum pats make this another pretty-good nothing song for the blockiest blues band of all time.

"Dead and Gone"
More stabbing organ, metronomic pounding and a "la, la" hook augmented by a tinkling instrument. They're clearly trying to arrange themselves away from their minimalism, but don't seem to know how. Somehow "I will love you when you're gone" manages to be the exact same chorus as the last song's. No matter what textures the duo seems to tack on -- fuzz bass, glockenspiel -- they can't escape their own butt-basic songwriting.

"Gold on the Ceiling"
Finally a quirky beat. Buzzing analog synths augment this blues shuffle, but, uh, this is no "Sharp Dressed Man." The solo's respectable, and I kind of love the tinniness of the marching background against Dan Auerbach's C-list Gregg Allman howling. I long for a misplaced note or a blown speaker.

"Little Black Submarines"
"Voices calling me/ They get lost in and out of time" leads into "A broken heart is blind." So normal I actually perked up when I heard "Oh can it be" as "oh, can of beans." This might be a good time to bring up what an underrated lyricist Jack White is, since they ape him at the two-minute mark anyway. Patrick Carney tries his darnedest to drum the hell out of the "loud" section of this two-part tune, and Auerbach shreds in his politely doled-out way. But their excitement is still the most canned in "rock."

"Money Maker"
Seriously, this is an iPod commercial. "Money Maker" -- fuck your title. Oh wait, a talkbox solo ought to smooth things over. Jet called, they want their total absence of ideas back.

"Run Right Back"
Fellow critic: "Which one is the Black Lips and which one is the Black Keys again?"
Me: "The Black Keys have a Grammy."

This is probably the best song I've heard so far. Its subterranean crunch is fitted with an actual birdlike slide(?) figure, and it's cool when everything but the fuzz bass drops out for verse two. Don't "run right back to her" though, idiot, you're just gonna leave again anyway. Don't you know what happens in the blues? I'm as envious of their distortion pedals as I'm thankless of their songwriting.

Next: El Camino improves -- somewhat -- on its second half


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13 comments
Firm_car
Firm_car

tbk suck, the reviewer is right

CJB
CJB

Wow.  This may be the most hateful review I have ever read.  Ever heard of constructive criticism?  All you've given us is a worthless, pathetic, pile of SHIT talking.  I hope you don't get paid for this.  You've made Pitchfork seem soft and are a mega-asshole even by their standards.  And to anyone else who cries about this album not being creative or inventive enough, who cares!  I don't think this was ever promoted as a genre crushing release.  Let's try to stop taking things so seriously and enjoy it for what it is; a solid (pop) rock 'n' roll album with a good mix of clean pop hooks and dirty guitar licks that makes you want to get out of your seat and move a little.

aa111111
aa111111

Seriously, get some better taste in music man. It's kinda pittiful.

Yousuckdick
Yousuckdick

does anyone have an address for dan weiss? seriously, i'm down to murder him for the cause. if anyone can give me his address that would be great. (not kidding)

Durnsy
Durnsy

Seems every other review I've read about this album is opposite of your point of view, maybe your not cut out to be a music critic.

Tian Gao
Tian Gao

we don't want creativity we want to fucking rock and this does it. i don't need "vital" or "lush“

Leila-Anne Cavé
Leila-Anne Cavé

I wish people would stop jocking the Black Keys.  I find their music enjoyable, but I don't get what all the fuss is about.  Their music tremendously lacks creativity.  Thanks for the article.

Thomjonas
Thomjonas

you're what's wrong with all of North America

Thomjonas
Thomjonas

fuck you I hate you, the black keys are smarter than you

Yousuckdick
Yousuckdick

faggot piece of shit watch your back dude i'm bringing knives to sf

CBW
CBW

You're an idiot.  The record is amazing.  People like you write what you write so that others can tell you how stupid you are.  Mission accomplished.

BK for life.

ns151
ns151

Looks like we have a hater in the house. Making un-witty snide comments every sentence doesn't make you sound cool and edgy, Dan- it makes you sound like a wannabe-Pitchfork- writer jackass. 

Aalonzo2
Aalonzo2

you're a fucking moron.  the Keys have been doing their thing for 10 years.  Their success is a result of hard work and an undeniable sound.  Seems like your hatin' says more about you than the Black Keys' music.

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