If you discount the White Stripes as a vehicle for Jack White’s outsized rock-star personality, the Black Keys are the closest thing to a true garage band that’s made it huge in decades. Which is something to celebrate, especially when they follow the commercial breakthrough of last year’s Brothers with a disc as solid as El Camino. The only changes here are the ones you might expect from a band on its seventh album: more polish in the writing, more variation in the tempos (with as many soul struts as outright rockers), and a surer touch to the hooks. Danger Mouse proves to be a surprisingly old-school producer, capturing the sweat of a live band that always sounds bigger than a duo. At the same time, he puts a sonic difference into every tune. One small example: “Stop Stop” features a brief but grabbing slide-guitar solo, the only time such a tone is heard on the album. The introduction of psychedelia on the closing “Mind Eraser” suggests where the Keys might go next. El Camino is one to play for your cranky friends who insist that nobody makes rock & roll records anymore.
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