As El Camino's cover shot of their trusty, since mothballed Plymouth Grand Voyager attests, few acts know the dues-paying claustrophobia of the gig van so well as The Black Keys.
It was 2010's triple Grammy-winner Brothers that finally afforded Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney a major lifestyle upgrade, long-term fans chuffed to see such dogged and gifted practitioners of scuzzy garage rock win their moment in the sun. Gloriously, El Camino sees the Akron, Ohio-formed duo raise their game higher still, its hookey, deliciously scabrous guitars tied to a slew of infectious grooves cribbed from glam-rock, NYC punk and Motown.
If Sister joins the dots between The White Stripes and The Rolling Stones andLonely Boy channels The Cramps, it's perhaps Gold On the Ceiling - inspired by the Keys' distrust of late-onset success - that spells-out the duo's current mindset. "Let's just continue to do what we always did, but better," Auerbach and Carney seem to be saying. "Fame is a fickle beast."
With the intermittent foil Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, back at the controls here (he produced 2008's Attack & Release and oversaw the key Brothers single Tighten Up), the Keys manage to tap into vintage rock'n'roll's unquenchable spirit without sounding slavishly retro. A filthy, flab-free gem that never outstays its welcome.