I've always been a fan of The Black Keys, whatever people say. They fronted my headlong charge into the realm of bluesy garage rock a few years back when an absolute triumph of an album, 'Rubber Factory' landed in my ears. As this American rock duo threw out more and more records however, I came to realise that they never really change anything up. Sure, Danger Mouse collaborated with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in the production of 2010's 'Brothers', but even he didn't manage to wet my taste-buds in anticipation for it. For me, I'm afraid that while consistency might be a good thing, and The Black Keys churn out relatively good songs, their lacking ability to progress makes them a little, well, boring. Yes the band have changed. Before the duo were introduced to Danger Mouse on 'Attack and Release', there was more energy to their sound. There was a raw complexity behind those two guys, behind the mechanisms of the music, and I loved that. Now though, things have become, if anything, simpler than before. More straightforward and predictable the slower the river of ideas flowed. With 'El Camino', my concentration lapsed, and it wasn't because I was tired. You get the feeling The Black Keys are yawning instead, and that puts you off!
In general, most of the songs on here are tiring. With both feet firmly well planted in the silty bed of pop sensibility, catchy and hook-fuelled, something's been lost. Do not get me wrong, the tracks aren't ear-offending, but they are not the attention-grabbing numbers of times past. The first single, 'Lonely Boy' is a nostalgic listen but that's exactly why I am not a huge fan of it. I don't want a modern take on what The Black Keys used to play. Instead, I'm pleading for something new. All that energy that captivated me from their earlier efforts but just a new idea. A new concept. A new theme. On 'El Camino' The Black Keys haven't thrown anything new into the mixture. They're feeding us the same old formula, and I'm for one not prepared to swallow. 'Little Black Sumbarine' reveals a White Stripes influence in an acoustic ballad form, and 'Sister' has an awesome groove. Other than that however, all the other songs are bland, predictable and just not original enough for me to enjoy them. We're seven albums in so The Black Stripes need to start serving their non-hardcore fans something fresh. These eleven tracks aren't worth your time unless you are just that. The epitome of a hardcore fan. For most of us, the album will sound okay. Far from bad, but a fair few miles from being glorious or outstanding or magnificent. I was underwhelmed, and that was without great anticipation or high expectation. Hear 'The Lonely Boy' down below.