For The Record: The Black Keys — El Camino

Sometimes I worry about Nephew 2. It’s not that he’s a bad kid or that he hangs out with the wrong crowd. It’s that he listens to too much emo music.

For years now he’s been giving me new music to expand my horizons. Most of it’s decent, some of it’s really good. But sometimes I feel it needs more backbone. Sufjan Stevens, Belle and Sebastian, Wilco — this kind of music is fine in moderation.

But sometimes you need screaming guitars and pounding drums. Sometimes a man just needs to rock. And there’s just not enough rock in Nephew 2’s collection.  Oh, he’s got some Who — he’s not a total lost cause.

So when he hands me a couple of discs by The Black Keys I wasn’t expecting much. I had heard of them — I think I saw a segment on them on some news show — but couldn’t remember much about their music. I remember there were only two of them, which seemed odd.


It was suggested I listen to “El Camino” first and so I did. Wait. What is this? Screaming guitars? Pounding drums? Now that’s what I’m talking about. That’s how you kick off an album. This song is awesome.

imagesAnd while it doesn’t get better from here, the important thing is it doesn’t get worse. “El Camino” is 11 wonderful rockin’ tracks clocking in at a wonderfully concise 37 minutes. I’ve complained in the past about how modern albums go on far too long. This one doesn’t. Leave them wanting more, dammit.

So many gems — “Lonely Boy,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Money Maker,” “Dead and Gone” and “Little Black Submarines” — a tune that deceptively starts out like some ballad but then it kicks in with the screaming guitars and pounding drums. Bravo. Oh, and those are just the first five songs on the CD.

I guess you really don’t need more than two people for a band — one guy on screaming guitar; one guy on pounding drums.

There are times when people will tell you that rock and roll is dead and sometimes I’m tempted to agree. Then an album like this comes along and I figure The Who were right after all.

Rock is dead they say. Long live rock.

Note: “Brothers,” the other Black Keys album I listened to, is OK but not nearly as good as “El Camino.” Some bands do get better with experience.  

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