Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#570 in the Series) is The Back Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch Records)
I’m actually fairly new to The Black Keys. I only recently took a closer look at them when I picked up their last release, Brothers. I listened to it, but my thinking was along the lines of “OK, this is just the latest in a long line of hot, new bands, that everyone is supposed to like” that I’m going to listen to it once and then never play it again. I know enough about The Black Keys that even Brothers was seen by some of their early fans as a sellout and that they were not staying true to their roots. All I can tell you is that somehow The Black Keys snuck this in at the end of the year when most bands are putting out Christmas albums or “Best Of” collections, and I feel that El Camino is the Album of the Year for 2011.
For those that don’t know, The Black Keys are vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney. Originally from Akron, Ohio, they just recently relocated to Nashville, TN. Don’t let “Nashville” fool you in any way to think that this is a country album by any stretch of the imagination. Other than telling you it’s not country, it might be hard to tell you what it is. It’s rock, it’s blues, it’s glam, garage gospel, indie alternative funk all mixed together, often in the same song. I think their next tour will be one to see, to hear these songs played live. As far as the rawness of their early recordings is concerned, I think it’s still there – this is not a “pretty” record by any means. All good bands grow and get better. Those that stay in their little box usually burn out quickly. El Camino is just the next stage in the band’s growth and is somehow an all-out party. In addition to Dan’s guitar and Patrick’s drumming the sound is filled out with some occasional bass and cool organ fills and great choruses.
I don’t know if I have a favorite song from the record. That’s a good thing because there isn’t a single song that I dislike. From start to finish, El Camino delivers in each song over its 39 minutes. I think one of my favorite things about El Camino is how each song flows into the next, as if they recorded it in one sitting.
I could try to describe each song for you, but that would be kind of beside the point. Each one stands on its own and each one leads perfectly to the next. “Gold on the Ceiling” seems like it would be the album highlight just three songs in, in a bouncing bluesy gospel sounding rave up that really defies any better explanation. But then comes “Little Black Suzerains.” This song starts as a slow acoustic number that brings to mind some great late 60’s rock bands. Is it Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Blind Faith, a little bit of each maybe? Interestingly enough though when the first half of the song ends and the power chords that lead off the second electric half of the song begins you know it’s something that any of those bands would wish they had recorded. The lyrics are pure 60’s psychedelic rock.
I have to admit that the final song Mind Eraser might just be my favorite track. What a groove this track has as it describes a break up that the singer can’t let go of. The chorus of “Don’t Let it Be Over” repeats itself over and over as the album comes to a close and I was left thinking the same thing. ..Don’t let it be over.
–– Rob Henry, Bethesda, Maryland USA
Some El Camino fun facts.
1. The vehicle shown on the album cover is not in fact an El Camino. It’s a Chrysler Town & Country van that the band used for touring early in their career.
2. In October the band apparently placed an ad in the Akron Beacon Journal featuring a 1994 El Camino for sale with the description:
“Priced to sell – Grab the Keys and go! Contact Pat or Dan at (330) 510-1206”
The number is still active and has a message from Patrick Carney describing the car and asking for the caller to leave a message. Call ‘em if you wish.
3. Check out the ad for El Camino below. Im sure you’ll enjoy it. It spoofs a used car salesmen trying to sell the “El Camino” pictured on the cover
All songs written and composed by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.
- “Lonely Boy” – 3:13
- “Dead and Gone” – 3:41
- “Gold on the Ceiling” – 3:44
- “Little Black Submarines” – 4:11
- “Money Maker” – 2:57
- “Run Right Back” – 3:17
- “Sister” – 3:25
- “Hell of a Season” – 3:45
- “Stop Stop” – 3:30
- “Nova Baby” – 3:27
- “Mind Eraser” – 3:15
Check out this great ad for El Camino!