El Camino, The Black Keys

El Camino

I am so glad that Dave Grohl doesn’t have to save rock and roll all by himself!  Thank you, Black Keys, for helpin’ a brotha out.


Living in Northeast Ohio, I have been hearing about The Black Keys for the past ten years, but I didn’t know much about their music until the past couple.  They started during what I like to call The Great Rock and Roll Rebellion that took place in the early 2000s, when all the The bands were getting shit done right: The White Stripes, The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines.  Since I didn’t know what The Black Keys sounded like back then they were not on my radar except as a local band I would read about in Scene.  Listening to El Camino now, I definitely hear that they were part of that rebellion of a decade ago.  Their first few albums were blues, and though the blues definitely still inspire them I hear their last two records more as rock and roll.  They give me hope that rock is not dead.  Whew!


The Great Rock and Roll Rebellion happened at a time when I had started listening to newer music only a few years earlier.  I worshiped Oasis in the 90s, but they were pretty much it as far as contemporary bands.  And then I discovered Foo Fighters—rather, I discovered Dave Grohl, and then I started listening to Foo Fighters.  All things Grohl became my oxygen.  And since I planned on marrying him, I figured I should expand my musical horizons to include the music that influenced him.  I was always interested in all types of music, but I pretty much gave up on anything being good after 1990.  Thanks to Dave, though, I was more willing to listen to artists I had never heard of or maybe knew of but had never paid attention to.  I bought music by some of Nirvana’s influences and contemporaries.  I bought lots of Motörhead because Dave worshiped them, and I actually really, really liked them!  I was not going to pretend to like something, but I became a huge fan of Motörhead.  What I was interested in was real music, not cookie cutter pop stars.  Don’t get me wrong: I still loved cheesy 80s music, but I wanted to explore other artists who had a true passion for music and not just fame and fortune.


And that’s what Dave Grohl represented to me, and that’s what all of the The bands were as well, so I was getting very excited about music again.  Now I’m kind of annoyed that I didn’t pay more attention to The Black Keys back then, because I could have gone to a million of their shows for super cheap.  But as with all of the music of the past 20 years that I learned to appreciate very late, I wasn’t meant to fall in love with The Black Keys until now.


I bought El Camino in 2012.  I had started hearing The Black Keys’ music in commercials and stuff a few years earlier, and I dug it.  I’m not sure why it took me until this record to buy their shit.  But this album is a great way to get all up in The Black Keys.  The beginning of the first track, “Lonely Boy,” is exactly what I need right now.  It’s rockabilly; it’s the fucking hotness; it’s a kick in the balls.  When I blast it in my car it makes my vehicle vibrate with rock and roll goodness.  You should never, ever listen to it—or any other Black Keys song—on a computer or iPod.  You cannot hear this kind of music that way.  You just can’t!  It’s meant to be a huge experience, a bear hug wall of sound that suffocates you with awesome sauce and liberates you from your boring, stupid life.  Yes, that is exactly what it feels like when you listen to it.  Rock and roll is meant to be played loudly and rudely and inappropriately.  When Dave Grohl is recording a new record he brings the demo out to his car so he knows what it really sounds like.  There’s a great scene in the Foo Fighters documentary Back and Forth that illustrates this.


And The Black Keys seem to have the same philosophy of how they want their music to sound.  These guys know what’s up, and no matter who wants to call them sell-outs because they make money from selling their music for commercials and video games and shit, that’s fucking stupid, because they are making great music that is going to last longer than most of what’s been around for the past 10 or 20 years.  It’s their music, and they can do with it what they like. 

The Black Keys 2013 Grammy performance

These guys are musicians, not pop stars.  After they won three Grammys in 2013 the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper interviewed Dan Auerbach’s dad, and he emphasized Dan’s work ethic and the part it plays in his success. 

Dan never stops.  When he comes home from the road, there’s just a barrel of projects waiting for him in the studio. He loves his life and he works real hard.

But the single greatest thing about winning all those Grammys last night is that it allows him to do more of the things that he loves to do.  The reward for hard work is more hard work.

Success means you can do more of what you love.  Yes.  That.  That’s the life I want.  These are blue collar guys from the Midwest.  They believe in working for what they want.  Dan’s dad also pointed out that nobody from Akron expects to make it big.  Music was their way out.  They worked their asses off to make the music they wanted to make, and it’s paying off big time.  This is one of the things I love about these guys, and about Dave Grohl.  They each come from a sincere place in their love of music, and they each are so focused on doing only what they want to do.  I admire that. 

And this is why I am certain that The Black Keys will help Dave Grohl save rock and roll.  I have been in love with Dave since 1999.  He’s hilarious, talented, cool, cute, he loves his family, and he’s just an all around good dude.  He is, above everything else, a music fan.  I have realized very recently, since his Sound City documentary was released, that we feel exactly the same way about music!  He is on a mission to preserve the human element of music, and that is what I want to do as well.  It’s not that he’s dissing anyone, but it’s important to him that future generations understand what music really is, how it can impact your life as a fan and a musician.  The Black Keys are definitely doing their part to preserve all that is good and holy about music. 

There’s no way I can live without The Black Keys now.  I can tell that this album is going to become extremely important to me.  I have listened to it probably 20 or 25 times in the past five days.  The day after the Grammys, while I was at my boring temp job, I played all of their albums in chronological order on YouTube.  I had El Camino to listen to in my car.  That was all that got me through the day.  Thinking about Dan and Patrick and how hard they have worked, thinking about this amazing collection of music I did not know about, and feeling proud that they are fellow Northeast Ohioans, all of this really gave me hope.  I am not a musician, but I really fucking love music.  It’s just as important to me as it is to those who actually play music.  The Black Keys’ music makes me feel like I can do anything I want to do.  Foo Fighters make me feel that way, too.  Anyone who is serious about their craft and spends every waking hour trying to be better at what they do really impresses me.  I feel like such a slacker most of the time.  I need to kick my own ass a lot.  Thank you, Black Keys, for being the rock and roll yoga I need to make me limber enough to do just that. 

4 thoughts on “El Camino, The Black Keys

  1. Pingback: Snapshot, The Strypes | What I Like Is Sounds

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