The Black Keys

Turn Blue

Written by: BV on 24/05/2014 12:38:05

Admittedly, I was a bit late when jumping on the bandwagon in relation to The Black Keys. I first really got into them with their album “Brothers” – due in most part to the unique way in which the duo had created the album. It was an alluring blend of no-frills rock music that had somehow been bloated up so as to have a massive confidence and swagger to it, that fit it extraordinarily well. Then came “El Camino” which reassured me of the fact that The Black Keys were able to write extraordinarily catchy riffs and songs in general, as they produced their most recognizable track to date; “Tighten Up” which I assume most people are familiar with in one way or another. What worries me, then, is the release of “Turn Blue” – a somewhat anticipated album which has already garnered quite a bit of chit-chat around the globe – with most people calling it either: bland, anonymous, over-produced or polished.

Naturally, there are always two sides to a coin so I had to check it out for myself. As the album opens with “Weight of Love”, it is already massively evident that the band’s focus has shifted from the sleazy, casually chauvinistic hook-laden approach of “El Camino” in favor of a far more laid back songwriting approach that can also be heard on the uniquely radio-friendly “Fever”. It all has a sort of disconcerting ambivalence to it. At first, it seems extremely cool that they’re so nonchalant about this whole music thing, casually throwing themselves at producing these tracks that are strangely introverted for a band of their particular craft. Then the fascination turns to questioning – because if they can’t get properly excited, should I really make an effort at it then?

I think it’s important to note that the approach has changed drastically from a lyrical perspective too. As a writer from another publication dubbed it: “The Black Keys' casual chauvinism has gone from ‘Girl, you look so good’ to ‘Woman, you done me wrong’”. – Thus signifying that there is a vibe of utter melancholy present on the album. It’s no surprise really, that Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton has added layer after layer of meticulous synths, keys and organs (as well as some casual layers of orchestral strings here and there) in order to fully emphasize this vibe. One could then blame him as a potential scapegoat for the album’s apparently bland sound, but I wouldn’t really go as far as that as I firmly believe his contributions are actually lifting the album – seeing as they do emphasize the sheer melancholy that the band is apparently trying to convey.

Surprisingly, “Gotta Get Away” closes the album off in a strangely upbeat fashion. Just as you think you’ve figured out the purpose of “Turn Blue” – namely that of deviating from being pigeon-holed as a riff-rock band with sleazy melodies and grooves, the band turns around and finishes off the album in exactly the fashion one would assume they’re trying to deviate from. It might be a coincidence, but I think it’s a casual stroke of genius that lifts “Turn Blue” out of its own self-pitying and wallowing and makes it a whole. “Turn Blue” is not the best Black Keys album to date, but even though the approach has changed drastically towards a somewhat bland, semi-psychedelic approach that is filled with superfluous keyboards and such, it’s still a solid album that we’ll probably look back on with a better understanding of it. Give it some time and it will probably get under your skin.


Download: Gotta Get Away, Bullet in the Brain, Year in Review
For the fans of: Golden Animals, Dan Auerbach, The White Stripes
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.05.2014
Nonesuch Records

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