"They're headlining MSG?" one of my friends recently asked, regarding the Black Keys' upcoming tour. "When did that happen?" The question is legitimate considering, for the first eight or so years of the band's career, they experienced success only in the indie world, never cracking into the Top 40 charts until their 2010 release, Brothers. With this album came a track called "Tighten Up," which was eventually picked up by pop radio stations, gaining the band wide critical acclaim, including three Grammy awards, including one for Best Alternative Music Album, and guest spots on Saturday Night Live and other late nights shows. The Black Keys were clearly on their way.
Now, having made that leap from indie obscurity into mainstream consciousness, the way the Arcade Fire did last year with The Suburbs, everyone was curious to see what Akron, Ohio's coolest blues rock duo, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, would put out next. El Camino, the band's seventh album, produced by Danger Mouse, who also worked on Brothers with the guys, is an amazing collection of songs clearly inspired by rock and roll from the 50's and 60's as well as from the arena rock era of the 70's.
"After the first three or four songs were recorded, it kind of became apparent that they're all rooted in this early rock and roll feel," Carney explained in a video interview recently posted on MTV.com. "It was around that time that we decided to make a whole album that was built around that. We'd never made an album that was all coming from the same exact direction. We kind of wanted to do that."
The album's first track and first single, "Lonely Boy," has the potential for great success. Auerbach's brilliant, gritty and ripping opening guitar riff alone won me over whole heartedly. Combined with Carney's heavy, slamming drum beats that quickly join in, this is a fantastic rock song.
My other personal favorite is "Little Black Submarines." It starts off slowly with just Auerbach's voice and some slow guitar picking. Then half way through there's a one-second pause before he tears mercilessly into the song with a guitar riff so explosive, it briefly makes Hendrix seem inadequate. This song in particular, I can't wait to see live at the Garden. It just begs for a giant stage and thousands of ravaging fans.
With the release of El Camino, I wonder, could they be America's new favorite rock and roll band? Rock fans have recently been deserted by the Kings of Leon who can't seem to stay sober or get along. They've also been deserted by Jack White who has gotten weird (proof: check out his collaboration with Insane Clown Posse). And, let's face it, the Strokes' last album wasn't so great. So who's to fill the void?
My vote is for the Keys, obviously. Not only is their music great and the kind that can fill every nook of a venue as huge as the Garden, but Auerbach and Carney are also two of the most likeable, hilarious guys you've ever seen. Check out any interview with them on YouTube for proof. Also the fact that they named their album El Camino then put a photograph of a minivan on the album cover that is clearly not an El Camino furthers this. But what's best, they genuinely seem to enjoy spending all their time together. They're like brothers. (Just like the album name! Coincidence? I think not.)
If you haven't already, be sure to check out the Black Keys' new album, El Camino. But if you're currently stuck at work and only have access to YouTube, do yourself a favor and watch the video for "Lonely Boy," which features 48-year-old previously unknown actor/musician/security guard Derrick T. Tuggle, dancing his own free style dance in front of a hotel room door. It's bizarre and funny, but so addictive, which makes it fit in so perfectly with what the Black Keys do.
This post is also published at Short And Sweet NYC.