Review by Blake Britton
Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach are not ones for trudging through a lot of new territory. Even when switching from a duo to a four piece, Danger Mouse produced band, there was still a sonic aesthetic that was undeniably that of the Black Keys. Turn Blue doesn’t necessarily get too wild and experimental for the average listener, but it does give the sense that maybe the band made an attempt to get past the blues-rock influence and try their hand at a more psychedelic sound.
If this latest LP proves anything, it’s that the Black Keys will always stay incredibly true to their signature sound no matter what new tools or gadgets the studio may be providing them with. And that’s okay! Not every band needs to change their sound dramatically to go on and make a good record. Sure, it worked with the likes of MGMT when they transitioned from their debut to sophomore albums, but aren’t we all just a little disappointed when our favorite bands change so dramatically and make a less-than-stellar album because of it (a la The Strokes’ Comedown Machine and the Arctic Monkeys’ AM)? Change is always essential and always something we should try to be enthusiastic about when listening to new records, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. Turn Blue found a way to be a Black Keys record and not stick to a basic formula, and it kind of works.
The opening track on this LP, “Weight of Love,” is quite possibly one of the most stunning songs the Keys have ever released. It’s an acoustic, garage rock, Pink Floyd sounding track and the results fill me with a sort of melancholic bliss. It’s the album’s most well-constructed song as well as its longest, clocking in at nearly seven minutes. And while we’re talking about features on this record that punch you in the gut, the bass lines on this album are killer. The hypnotic title track and the hip-shaking “10 Lovers” are beautifully glued together by these funky and soulful bass lines that demand to be heard.
My only gripes with this album are, as with any Black Keys album, Dan Auerbach’s lyricism on some of these tracks. Auerbach has this pattern of writing where he’ll write something really heartfelt and then, a few tracks later, make you wonder whether or not it’s the same person writing all of these songs. The lead single “Fever” is the best case in point here. On top of that low hanging fruit synth line, Auerbach lays down some of the most simplistic lyrics to ever appear on a Black Keys song. “Fever cause I’m breaking/Fever got me aching” among the other cheap tricks in this song. The closing track has some pretty cheesy lines as well, but I feel as if they’re more intended there than on other places scattered throughout the record. “Gotta Get Away,” as simplistic as it is, is actually one of my favorite tracks on the record just because of its playfulness and hilarity.
Is Turn Blue the Black Keys’ best record? No (that title belongs to the guitar heavy Rubber Factory if you have a chance to listen). But it’s a fun, danceable, and care free blues-rock record that doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. And that is undoubtedly okay with me.
Listen to "10 Lovers"