December 2, 2011 11:50 pm

The Black Keys: El Camino

The American rock duo’s seventh album plays to their strengths with pummelling drums and sparkling production
 

The Black Keys

El Camino

(Nonesuch)

3 stars

The Black Keys used to play understudy to a peerless blues-rock duo, The White Stripes. But now Jack and Meg White are gone (sob), leaving the way clear for Keys pair Dan Auerbach (guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) to try out as leading men in their own right. They passed the audition: last year’s album Brothers sold over 1m copies and won them a Grammy award.

El Camino plays to their strengths with big chewy riffs, pummelling drums and sparkling production from Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who turns the duo into a glam rock Jimi Hendrix Experience on “Gold on the Ceiling”. But with each album (this is their seventh) the blues-rock conservatism grows a little more stifling. Hackneyed lyrics about gold-digging women – “She’s a money maker/She’s gonna take ya” – have the stale reek of a 1970s tour van.

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