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86 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A crossroads for the keys
Their are quickly turning into two types of keys fans,Pre and post danger mouse fans, are you a thickfreakness/rubberfactory or attack and release/brothers fan. This new album El camino cements danger mouses influence with high production and backup singers etc. This is not in any way a bad record,it has great energy,power and the keys have never sounded tighter as far as...
Published on December 10, 2011 by classic rock fan

versus
131 of 168 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure to be a hit, just not for me.
Just to preface, I've been a big supporter of The Black Keys for nearly 10 years. I religiously buy all their albums and have seen them play on every tour since 'Thickfreakness'. My favorites are their older albums but, with that said, I know every artist has to grow and evolve their sound somewhat lest it become stale. I have no problem with that. In fact, I really...
Published on December 7, 2011 by Johnny Trouble


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86 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A crossroads for the keys, December 10, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
Their are quickly turning into two types of keys fans,Pre and post danger mouse fans, are you a thickfreakness/rubberfactory or attack and release/brothers fan. This new album El camino cements danger mouses influence with high production and backup singers etc. This is not in any way a bad record,it has great energy,power and the keys have never sounded tighter as far as playing and vocals.

You just have to ask yourself, how light do you want your black keys ?

If you came in with the danger mouse records you'll have no problems,if your a fan of the original sound of the black keys i suggest you do some pre listening before you buy this album. Once again I state this is in no way a bad album,its fantastic,but how you like your keys is gonna determine how much you dig this record.
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98 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old sound, New sound, meh., December 26, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
I must be a freak of nature because I've been following the Keys for years and I've enjoyed every album without exception. People who call themselves purists and are missing the "old" sound are just confused about what makes these guys so great. Ever developing and stretching what's possible. Each album is it's own life, don't judge one album by another. That's like a parent judging one kid by another; just wrong. If you want a bunch of "thickfreakness" or "rubber factory" then you shouldn't have ever bought another keys album after those ones. Plain and simple. This album is as solid as any other, take it for what it is; not for what it isn't.
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131 of 168 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure to be a hit, just not for me., December 7, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
Just to preface, I've been a big supporter of The Black Keys for nearly 10 years. I religiously buy all their albums and have seen them play on every tour since 'Thickfreakness'. My favorites are their older albums but, with that said, I know every artist has to grow and evolve their sound somewhat lest it become stale. I have no problem with that. In fact, I really liked the direction that their last disc, 'Brothers', appeared to be headed in: in addition to their stalwart blues, they were incorporating soul and R&B. I was very excited to get this album and have given it several listens and a few days to really sink in. In lieu of the soul and gritty blues, they've replaced it with pop and overproduction. It just seems very repetitive and would probably be good as background music at a party. It's not bad and acts as a good, safe offering to people who aren't familiar with The Black Keys, but it sounds like they're playing it safe here. In light of the garbage that the music industry is trying to pawn off on us, this disc has most everything else beat nowadays. But compared with the rest of their catalog, I think this is the Keys weakest offering and will likely get the least airplay on my stereo.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Black Keys - Magnificent seven, December 6, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
It's a Black Keys album and you pretty much know what your going to get. This is the seventh outing from the great Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach. They work in what is a somewhat restricted musical seam yet they seem to manage to squeeze every ounce of funky blues and soul base metal from its core and add their own little discoveries. It all adds up to a quality product but one in "El Camino" which adds a bit more grease and motor oil to the usual mix. The result is the creation of what is one of their best hard rocking blues barrages in sometime which does offer contrast to the more laidback "Brothers" album. Equally the bands honorary third member Dangermouse (Brian Joseph Burton) is at the control desk again and has decided to place a welcome emphasis on the pop hooks in these 11 great songs and for once the bass player gets a proper look in.

It all kicks off with two thumpers the overpowering "Lonely boy" and the brilliant "Dead and gone". It all sounds effortless with the former containing a killer sing-along chorus and a pounding fuzzy riff while the latter contains .......ahem, a killer sing-along chorus and pounding fuzzy riff! A great start and the foot is barely taken off the gas with the glam rock of "Gold on the ceiling" which you can almost visualise the great Marc Bolan singing in the heyday of T Rex. The pace cools for the initially acoustic "Little black submarines" gently sung by Auerbach but breaks out into a massive electric beast halfway through with a riff that does echo Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's last dance". It's a real standout track and followed by keepers like "Money maker" and the funky "Run right back". The track "Sister" sounds like one of those classic tracks built for FM rock radio which you imagine that Paul Rodgers could happily cover. It could easily be a single although there is plenty of competition, while the soulful "Hell of a season" might just be the best track on the album. The final three tracks are the "Stop Stop" a sort of mix of Stax soul and garage rock, the incredibly commercial belter that is "Nova Baby" where Auerbach blues-tinged vocals are at their absolute best and the concluding song "Mind eraser" which would have happily sat on "Attack and release".

Granted there is little new ground broken here and "El Camino" is a not a demanding listen. You could also argue that the explorations and R&B excursions of "Brothers" have been firmly contained in a framework which represents a souped up version of their earlier work. But whose complaining? It's the Black Keys offering up a great rock album sardine packed with top notch songs. After a number of listens "El Camino" reveals itself as a fresh, exhilarating and occasionally an almost glam rock orientated album from a band which has proved one of the most enduring of its generation while many of their contemporaries have fallen by the waste side or hysterically imploded. For a band that was often brutally criticized for being the "White Stripes lite" there must be real satisfaction in their ongoing achievement and a modest level of gloating is completely in order.
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60 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keys in the Ignition, December 6, 2011
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This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
The Black Keys constituents Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney's previous offering--"Brothers"--was their first conventional success, despite the fact that it had some noticeable weaknesses. Namely, it featured a large number of ballads and underwhelming up-tempo tracks, which were a huge contrast to the contents of the album's most endeared, hard-hitting predecessors, "Thickfreakness" and "Rubber Factory." Now, the Black Keys are back to fill a gaping void in the Alternative Rock scene. They have approached the project with much needed innovation and a revamped sound, in order to create something more than a sequel to their prior commercial success. This venture is marked by a fearless attempt to capture listeners by muscling full speed through perilous terrain, and it reaches its mark without once losing momentum--or a sense of humor.

Auerbach and Carney were taking a risk by returning to the formula of the excessively produced "Attack & Release" and their biggest commercial single yet, "Tighten Up," from "Brothers," by once again teaming up with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton--this time, allowing him full participation in the creative process. His fingerprints are prominent all over this release, but that--in and of itself--is not necessarily a bad thing. Have no fear--The Black Keys have not been recreated in the Gnarls Barkley image, and this is not, yet another spaghetti western for which Burton has such a glaring affinity. In fact, there is very little semblance to any of Burton's other projects. Instead, the end result is simply a more polished and accessible sound that still holds true to the band's character, with only the slightest hint of artistic surrender. The Black Keys began a gradual progression toward this style with their last few albums, so it seems like a natural development. What prevents the mishaps of years past is the band's increased awareness of what works and what will inevitably fall flat.

Despite notable changes, the Black Keys of yesteryear are certainly recognizable in this compilation. There is the all-familiar hand clapping, foot stomping, and pounding bass set to a scenery of rough, fuzzy guitar licks. With "Little Black Submarines" they begin with a ballad-style intro that lacks the distracting falsetto that was oh-so-prominent in "Brothers," and halfway through, they turn it full throttle. The transition from haunting splendor to gripping intensity makes a gut-twisting impact that will leave fans salivating for the first opportunity to witness a live performance of this singular track. In "Gold on the Ceiling," the guys add some luster and opulence that breaks through the nebulous front. As a whole, the tracks are caffeinated diatribes about deceitful women, stolen money, and the like. Although there is some carryover of lyrical vulnerabilities and the overdone themes of their past works, the music's stylistically rich and witty peculiarities are all-encompassing, which protects the material from being unduly compromised.

While fans of the band's earlier works might be irritated by the continued trend away from their frenzied, raw energy roots, El Camino is not a far cry from their origins. Carney returns from the watered down percussion that characterized the "Brothers" interval to his trademark assaults of his drum kit, and Auerbach reinstitutes his more coarse and rousing vocal approach. While it is a more mature and smooth sound, it is punched full of the requisite edginess, distortion, and oddball antics. Amidst the dark and broody mood are some heavy rhythms and thumping beats--thanks to the repeat collaboration with Danger Mouse--that culminates into a much more compelling and momentous successor to the vaguely bland, yet highly recognized, "Brothers." There is a sense of cinematic peril and waywardness that is incongruously alluring, and the temptation to ride shotgun through this adventure is palpable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Effort, December 13, 2011
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Guitarzan (Marietta, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
Let's get one thing out of the way. If you are waiting on The Black Keys to make another "Thickfreakness" or "Rubber Factory", I got news for you: It ain't gonna happen. It's hard for me to say that because those are my two favorite Black Keys albums. I miss the rawness and the "medium-fidelity" sound of their first four albums, and don't find myself getting into their latest stuff as much. Having said that, I do really like this album. It seems like a mix of Dan's solo album "Keep It Hid" and the Keys' "Brothers", to me. They seem to be going in more of a soul/r&b direction, as of late, especially on "Brothers". Don't get me wrong, these guys can still rock, but it seems to be a little more laid back and controlled, now. I think a lot of it has to do with production. They're not recording in basements and abandoned tire factories, anymore. They're actually recording in studios, and with other producers. Another factor is that neither Dan nor Patrick live in Akron anymore. Different environments can shape your songwriting, not to mention your mood. Dan lives in Nashville and Patrick in NYC. Not sure about NYC, but as far as Nashville, it's got to be a happier place than just about anywhere in Ohio. Believe me, I know.....I live in Ohio. The songs on this album are pretty solid, though. I especially like "Lonely Boy" and "Gold on the Ceiling". You can't fault these guys for progressing and trying to grow as musicians. I think they're still doing a great job, even if it does sound a little less raw than their earlier material.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Danger Mouse Has Destroyed The Black Keys, March 10, 2012
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
Attack and Release was decent... not as great as their earlier albums or even Brothers. Brothers was a good return to their roots, but was a bit depressing since the Black Keys did not sound like a two-piece band anymore. Then El Camino was released. My first listen I was like "Wow, this is good!" But as I listened to the album more, I realized the album did not sound like the Black Keys we all know and love. Firstly, there are way too many instruments playing at once. The album sounds like a wall of sound, not very attractive.

Secondly, all of the songs (except Little Black Submarine, which is one of the greatest Black Keys songs) focus way too much on the chorus. The verses are short, but then we have this chorus (which are always backed by female vocalists, which gets repetitive) that drags the song out way too long.

Lastly, WHERE IS THE BLUES??? There is not one song on this album that leaves a hint that shows the Black Keys are (were??) a blues band. What's even more depressing is that the guitar is sent to the back in most of the songs, which leaves the songs based around synth, bass, and drums. This is so weird, since on Brothers, EVERY SINGLE SONG was blues and soul-filled. If I had never heard of the Black Keys, and someone had played El Camino and Thickfreakness side-by-side, I would not guess that they were the same band (except by Dan's voice, of course).

Now who's to blame here? I personally think Danger Mouse is the culprit in this situation. I think that he is trying to hard to make the Black Keys sound like the old Black Keys, which, ironically, makes the Black Keys sound less like the old Black Keys.

What's the solution, you ask? I say let someone else produce the next album. Being that Attack and Release and El Camino (both produced by Danger Mouse) are basically the only sore thumbs in the Black Keys discography, that can't just be coincidence, right? I'm glad the Black Keys have finally risen in fame, but I really hope they go back to their roots. If they don't, however, I think we should all be happy that we have a great [past] discography from them, since most bands tend to lose "it" after two or three albums.

PS El Camino is in no way a "bad" album, it's just bad by Black Keys standards. Cheers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Black Keys Victory Lap, January 8, 2012
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
The commercial success of the Black Keys's previous album, Brothers, came out of nowhere for a number of reasons. First, as a blues-rock duo from the "flyover state" of Ohio, the Black Keys hardly seemed destined for the Billboard charts. Second, the Black Keys had been laboring diligently in indie-world for so long that for most it seemed impossible that they would finally break out of those cloistered confines of thick rimed glasses and absurdist facial hair and into a broad audience. And, finally, Brothers served as an intriguing departure from the Black Keys's usual sound, which normally consisted of them playing nothing more than guitar and drums that were then recorded in what sounded like a tin can. Instead, Brothers took cues from hip-hop production and included plenty of stylistic detours, including vocalist, Dan Auerbach, singing in a falsetto. Perhaps the success of Brothers shouldn't have seemed like such a fluke. After all, years of listening to the songs of the Black Keys in credit card commercials may have softened up America to their sound, and as much as the production on Brothers seemed out of step from some of their earlier albums, the further emphasis on drums and bass is hardly a losing proposition on commercial radio.

So, if Brothers seemed like an unexpected win for the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, then the follow up album, El Camino, seems desperate to argue that their time in the spotlight isn't over. Where Brothers was an expansive trip through many of the Black Keys's outer stylistic influences, El Camino is a tightly structured album designed to deliver one pop thrill after another. The first salvo of songs, "Lonely Boy," "Dead and Gone" and "Gold on the Ceiling," prove to be an apt mission statement for the album. Each song is catchier than the last and impossibly danceable. The entire album attempts to keep up this high wire act, placing one potential single after another, and at times it feels like listening to a "best of" compilation rather than a proper studio release. Some might miss the minimalist charms of their early work, while others might yearn for another stylistic departure like Brothers, but for those who are merely looking for a good time, you'll find it on El Camino. Besides, there are still interesting genre amalgams, from gospel and soul derived call and response to fat glam-rock beats, and, after all, writing eleven radio ready songs is hardly an easy task.

For El Camino, the Black Keys returned to producer Dangermouse, who also helmed their 2008 album Attack & Release. Since then Attack & Release has come to be known as the red headed stepchild in the Black Keys's oeuvre. In hindsight it's an obvious transition album, and, even if every track isn't successful, it now seems like a necessary move on their way to recording Brothers. I'm happy to say that Dangermouse's flourishes are more effortlessly folded into the Black Keys sound. On Attack & Release it too often felt as if the Black Keys had written solid songs that were dragged down by extra instruments and production tricks that were haphazardly bolted on. Here, Dangermouse's contributions seem like a natural extension of the band, a backing chorus here, an extra guitar line there, and maybe a little more bass. In fact, despite the two principle members of the Black Keys, it's quickly becoming impossible to refer to the band as a duo. El Camino cements the Black Keys's place as stadium ready stars, and if the album often feels like an effortless victory lap, then it's a well deserved one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars El Camino, Black Keys, December 23, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
A must have for anyone who enjoy's music from the Black Keys.
I pre ordered this because I love what these guy's can do to make fabulous music.
Was going to wait and give it to my husband for Christmas but couldn't wait and gave it to myself.
I want to let you know that at 62, I just can't get enough of their music.
A must have for any music collection!!!
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crowd pleaser, fan alienator., December 6, 2011
This review is from: El Camino (Audio CD)
My brother and I were raised on a healthy diet of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, etc. As such, we've always regarded the '67 - '77 era as the Holy Grail of Rock n' Roll. Except for a weird year-long foray into rap when we were teenagers, we've never strayed from the path of Rock. I became a fan of the Keys five years ago, when my brother stuck a joint in my mouth and "Magic Potion" in the disc player. I was hooked (and still regard that album as one of the best of 2000's).

With the release of "Brothers," I was initially excited to see the Keys get the popularity they deserved. Brothers, to me, was not so much selling out, as trying a new direction. They have, after all, operated quite awhile in obscurity. They found their working formula for success, to say the least, getting Rolling Stone magazine's number two pick for best album of 2010. My attitude of the music business, especially nowadays, is this: once you've made it, you've made it. If you released an album America likes, they will keep buying your albums no matter how much they suck. But the Keys don't suck, so I figured, "Hey, now that they've made it, they can record anything they please and people will like it." I figured El Camino would be the Keys' opportunity to dose their audience with something big. It seems I was wrong.

I bought this album today, eyeing the sticker that said "Play Loud" with excitement. What I found was Brothers Pt. II, except that it took the songs they made big bucks off of ("Howlin' For You" in particular) and replicated it nearly a dozen times. The beats, though entertaining, are rehashed from one song to the next. Dan Auerbach's (guitar, vocals) once dinosaur-sized guitar style has been demoted to rhythm section. Patrick Carney (drums), who once sounded like a disciple of John Bonham, is monotonous. Undoubtedly, this album will produce several long players on the dance floor ("Lonely Boy," "Sister"), but this album seems to lack ambition. It seems the Keys were more interested in playing for their new sheeple audience than for the people who stuck it out with them through obscurity.

That's not to say I hate this album. I don't. It may be mainstream, but it's easily a hundred cuts above what everybody is listening to, like Ke$ha, Lil Wayne, and Lady Gaga. Maybe that's because the Keys have ten years of experience in MAKING music, rather than singing over music made for them. There is certainly a level of sophistication in "El Camino" that makes me believe that modern music is not totally dead. One thing people may not notice, for example, is that Dan is using a lot of syncopated Jazz rhythms in his playing, he's just turned the volume up and cranked up the distortion. In that regard, while "Gold on the Ceiling" sounds very reminiscent of Green Day circa 1994, there is no band that the Keys can be compared to. They retain their own sound and their artistic integrity. It's just that the songs on "El Camino" fail to push the limits. When I was listening to "Dead and Gone" for example, there was a short, fifteen second segment in which Dan added some gritty, delicious guitar embellishments. I waited until the end of the song, praying that he would finish it out with another, lengthier solo. It ended abruptly, just as all the songs on this album do. Only one of the songs reaches four minutes in length, so just when it looks like the band is catching on to something, they give it up. In addition, there is not one solo designed to give you chills.

In short, if you came to the Keys through "Brothers," this album is probably right up your alley. It's visceral and upbeat, but tinged with the same bluesy undertones that made "Brothers" a novelty. If you're a longtime fan like myself, I'd advise you to listen to it through youtube or an online player before you buy it. I know there will be at least a few songs which I will play to death ("Run Right Back" "Mind Eraser"), but above all this album showed me that the days of "Magic Potion" and "Attack & Release" are dead, dead, dead. It's unfair to expect a band to be doing the same thing they were doing five years before, and I don't, but you certainly can't call them a blues rock band any longer. I'm not sure you can even call them a rock band.
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