Lonely Boys Make A Masterpiece

Published in Woroni on February 12 2012.

Championing raw, uninhibited, bluesy rock and roll, The Black Keys seem an unlikely duo to strive to prominence within a music scene dominated by flimsy dance beats and fragile pop ballads. But, since winning the 2011 Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album with Brothers, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have truly taken up the garage rock mantle left wide open by The White Stripes after their hiatus and eventual split last year.

El Camino represents a stunning development in The Black Keys’ signature sound. Although faithful to their musical origins, with their blues roots set solidly at the album’s core, this newest release provides listeners with a far groovier set of tracks that fall more kindly on ears tuned keener to pop sensibilities.

This new sound is heard none better than on the album’s opening track, “Lonely Boy”, which opens with a crunchy guitar riff, loaded on distortion and fuzz, before featuring a chorus catchy and lapped up by the radio waves. El Camino’s first single even experienced massive airplay on MTV; its music video, featuring nothing but an extra’s goofy but funkily retro dance moves, went virtually viral and has spawned almost as many tributes on YouTube as Beyonce’s “Single Ladies’”

“Little Black Submarines” is a compelling change of pace to the album; an introspective, mellow track accompanied by a wistful acoustic guitar that is worlds away from the band’s typical frenetic energy. The song is interweaved with stunning lyrics that show that the band, capable of more than just simple power chords and pounding drumbeats, can also appeal to listeners at an emotional level.

But, in true Black Keys fashion, the song breaks into an epic conclusion of gutsy, unrestrained vocals and a captivating guitar solo that I’ll happily admit to learning note-for-note on my dusty air-guitar. And it’s exactly that kind of album, the sort that is meant to be enjoyed at ear-splitting volumes, the sort perfect for viciously drumming along to with pencils and pens at your desk while an overdue assignment succumbs to a modern but irresistible rock album.

Keep your fingers crossed and an ear open for an Australian tour later in the year. Drummer Patrick Carney recently announced to Triple J that, despite cancelling their most recent tour dates in Australia to record El Camino, a trip down under is certainly on the cards within the next twelve months.

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