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El Camino reminds me of early Rolling Stones singles mixed with Led Zeppelin’s bombast, a dash of David Bowie’s glam, and a bit of Wilson Pickett’s strut.
This is an album for hot nights and tequila shots.
Songs like “Lonely Boy” would work for a Quentin Tarantino crime caper shot in a seedy section of Los Angeles.
You gotta give Black Keys members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney props for following their commercial breakthrough record Brothers with an album that pushes beyond the latter’s successful formula and into edgier, riskier territory. El Camino credits album producer Danger Mouse as cowriter of all 11 songs, and the resultant collaboration surpasses the respective parties’ 2008 effort, Catch and Release. Ironic album cover art aside, El Camino comes on like fast, muscular garage-rock tricked out with clever hooks and loads of charm.
Recorded at Auerbach’s Nashville studio on a 1969 Quad-8 mixing console, El Camino turns on a dime. Each track offers a unique experience. “Lonely Boy” is lean, mean, and bright, while “Gold on the Ceiling” brings to life a glam-rock giant stomping through a sprawling soundscape. Elsewhere, the metal crunch of tunes such as “Money Maker” abet punky, soul-inflected cuts like “Hell of a Season.”
Sonically, El Camino’s low-end heft mirrors that of Brothers, yet an upper-register sheen gives an extra edge to Aurebach’s guitar and additional snap and sizzle to Carney’s drum kit. The combination proves a good match for the octane-fueled pace of the compositions. Thank the stars for Nonesuch’s decision to ask Bernie Grundman to cut the lacquer for the vinyl. It has black backgrounds, wonderful dynamics, and subterranean bass. Unless you opt for the more expensive limited-edition 45RPM version, which possesses a tad more bass heft and overall body, you can’t go wrong with this pressing.
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