Tuesday, December 27, 2011


The Black Keys are becoming one of my favorite bands.  Last year their amazing album Brothers was my #7 album of the year, and this year El Camino does a bit better: it's #5 on my list.

The Black Keys, famously, are a guitar/singer + drummer duo from the midwest.  So it was never any surprise that they were compared to that other band fitting that description.  The bands are as different as, um, black and white (ha ha).  Both groups may have a fair obsession with vintage songs, sounds, equipment, etc. but the Black Keys aren't as strict with their limitations. Working with Danger Mouse, who produced 2008's Attack and Release and the song "Tighten Up" from Brothers, gives them a bit more of a modern sheen. On this album, he seems a bit more of a band member (in fact, he received co-writing credits), making the Keys a temporary trio.

I’ve read that The Black Keys were inspired by The Clash on their new album, El Camino.  I get it: like The Clash, they take lots of American music forms and deliver them in short, smart powerful punches with no fat on them.  But there’s a lot of other influences going on here: definitely Led Zeppelin, and I’d even add ZZ Top for their crunchy, bluesy, boogie swagger. I don't have all of their albums, but I would say that this album is a bit less blues and a bit more '70s rock and funk.

I have been listening to the album a lot lately, and at one point I tweeted, “I love how @theblackkeys somehow tricked indie kids into listening to cool music.” As I mentioned when I wrote about them last year, they don't relate to most of today's indie rock any more than I do.  I know that they are now popular enough to play arenas, and I hope to catch them in 2012.

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