Black Keys Shove A Classic Out For Christmas, And Just Destroy Our Top Ten List

Just as in certain polities, candidates run for At Large seats — no numbered district assigned to them, they represent the whole city or state — let’s just grant right now that the Black Keys’ incredibly infectious El Camino is such an obvious album for the ages, it clearly made Tulip Frenzy’s Top Eleven List of The Best Albums of 2011.  We’re just not assigning them a number.  I mean, we’re clearing out space for them, changing formats, so our previously published Top Ten List has been transformed into the Top 11 of 2011.  Yeah, that’s the ticket; we’re not moving anyone else down, but we are definitely expanding the category.  Couldn’t they have released it earlier, to make things more convenient for us?  Why are they playing to all the boys and girls’ Christmas lists, and not critics’ Top Ten Lists?  What misplaced values…

We assure you, this is the only thing El Camino has misplaced.  From Michael Carney’s desaturated photos of cars — like Stephen Shore filtered through the Hipstomatic app — to the sweet soul music of “Stop Stop,” from the T.Rex bones of “Lonely Boy,” to the sheer sleazy rhythms of “Gold On The Ceiling,” this is such a fun record, let’s just take the rest of the year off and listen to it maybe 50 times each day.  This is music Dan Ingram would have played on WABC back in the day, and our mono radio would have shorted out from how high the volume would be turned up.

Look, we’ve enjoyed Dan Auerbach’s singing and his great blues chops for years, but we’ve never really loved the Black Keys because two-person bands don’t swing.  Their music is constructed more than played.  But Messrs. Auerbach and Carney do something really smart on El Camino: they play fast.  They sound like a band, not a project.  And not just a band, they sound like the greasiest garage band in town, auditioning for Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets 16.  The last time a band transformed itself like this was when, after Peter Buck hung out with the Fleshtones and produced their Beautiful Light, REM came out with Monster.  Maybe you think the Black Keys have always been a garage band, but they’ve always played tempi about half the speed of what careens down the road in this filthy El Camino.

For a while there, it seemed like the Black Keys were the Tiger Woods of rock’n’roll — most of their money actually came not from playing, but from the uses to which their music was put by advertising agencies.  El Camino may move too fast to be captured by 30-second beer spots.  But there’s no question this will be the soundtrack of our lives for the next few months.  So welcome, guys, to the Tulip Frenzy Top 11 list.  When our friend texted us that we should wait until this album was released before locking in on the year’s best music, we were skeptical.  No more.

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