Barely stopping to catch a breath, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach bum rush through El Camino like cats in heat. The high-octane guitar, organ, drums and even bells and chimes all seem to move together, surging forward in adrenaline-riddled spurts. While the duo has always attributed their rhythmic focus to their mutual love for old hip-hop and R&B, these songs were dipped in pure rock and roll. “Money Maker” is hearkens to the bluesy side, while “Little Black Submarines” slowly builds from an acoustic ballad a la Blitzen Trapper to fuzzy metal riffage. Album opener, “Lonely Boy,” is the best of the bunch, a rollicking good time with raw edges. It’s as danceable as anything they’ve ever done.
Lamenting love gone wrong on nearly every song, the subject matter is nothing new. But it’s what these two do best, and when Auerbach howls “she's bound to break ya" on "Money Maker," you want to shake the hand of the gold digger who inspired such fiery feelings. "All this love of mine/And all my precious time/You'll waste it 'cause you/Don't know what you want," goes "Nova Baby," one of the few songs where Auerbach takes his guitar for a high-flying solo. Sometimes the lyrics swing and miss, like the gag moment on "Run Right Back," where Auerbach cries "She doesn't read too much/But there's no doubt/She's been written about/Finest exterior/She's so superior."
With the stinging attitude and upbeat grooves, though, El Camino surpasses all of its sad-sack tendencies. Each song is it's own piece of soulful groove. Throttling forward at full-force, this is The Black Keys’ most direct and consistent album yet. With the new audience the two have garnered from 2010’s Brothers, expect to hear these songs on everything from car commercials to the nearly extinct rock radio. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch, nor a moment to relax until you’ve ingested El Camino in full.