This is my favorite Black Keys song of late, though it’s not new. I suppose I first heard it on a breeze-through listen of El Camino after its release, an album I appreciated but never listened to much, as I always favored the older stuff. “Little Black Submarines” re-entered my consciousness as a radio edit in mid-August. Now it is a weekly, or daily, obsessive listen.

It’s classic Black Keys in the best way, dreary and aggressive, composed and chaotic. They performed it during a magnificent spectacle of an arena tour in Pittsburgh earlier this month, and I felt stunned by Dan Auerbach playing solo in spotlight. I felt shaken by the kick kicking in at the bust, enraptured by the newfound attack of the hook. Subtle tambourine and synth harken back to this band’s earlier days, the ones of rebellious distortion and analog glory. Then everything collides, a punishing offensive of one loud-ass guitar and a little of everything else backing it up. Auerbach’s effortless cool is trademark, and rugged, and I can’t think of a better sound than his vintage pedal-fuzz to accompany this hardening of hearts. Lyrical brilliance has never been this band’s strong suit, though it has never needed to be with this kind of blues-rock feeling, and yet here they hit their mark with dead-on aim, with a story of a desperate broken heart sullen and thrashing in its own misery.

Vulnerability never sounded so tough.

“Little black submarines,
Operator please,
Put me back on the line.
Told my girl I’d be back
Operator please,
This is wreckin’ my mind

Oh can it be,
The voices calling me,
They get lost,
And out of time,
I should’ve seen it glow,
But everybody knows,
That a broken heart is blind.
That a broken heart is blind.

Pick you up, let you down,
When I wanna go
To a place I can hide.
You know me, I had plans,
But they just disappeared,
To the back of my mind.

Oh can it be,
The voices calling me,
They get lost,
And out of time.
I should’ve seen a glow
But everybody knows
That a broken heart is blind

That a broken heart is blind.

Treasure maps, fallen trees,
Operator please
Call me back when it’s time
Stolen friends and disease,
Operator please,
Patch me back to my mind.

Oh can it be?
The voices calling me
They get lost
And out of time.

I should’ve seen a glow
But everybody knows
That a broken heart is blind
That a broken heart is blind
That a broken heart is blind.

~Little Black Submarines
The Black Keys, El Camino