The Black Keys – Turn Blue Review

It’s been two years since El Camino and in that time Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been looking to progress from the stocky, bold and traditional Rhythm and Blues outlook from a 21st century band. It worked pretty damn well for the time and environment of 2012, but they couldn’t go back to that sound again if they wish to maintain their reputation as one of the most sought-after bands in the world. This decision was perhaps made easier by the wave of bands now copying the styles of their most recent albums but to a lesser standard. Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) should also receive much praise for his production of their recent work in making their songs more direct and to the point. If Turn Blue see’s the large shift of direction that was promised then both sides of the recording studio should be well capable to deliver.

 ‘Fever’ offers up that initial changing sound. It features snappy percussion, a more prominent bass line generating a driving buzz in the immediate background. The chiming bursts from the old style synths add that hook and melody of repeating effectiveness. The vocals are scaled up and added to on the chorus to continue the enhancement of latching on to the listener and it does so well. The guitars on this track are merely here for ballast to the song as they have opted for other routes for their primary functions. ‘Turn Blue’ is a much more smoother track with a slow fluidity to it with the strung out and nudging riff along with the rotating bass line. When this is joined by the winding and manipulated synths and effects, it provides an easy churning quality which keeps the song on the move so to speak. Dan’s vocals are simple but matching of the songs feel with more wistful and closer sound of the lyrics that he easily alters for a softer and subtle sounding falsetto which adds to the songs gradual growth in the chorus before reverting back to the intimacy of the verses again. Both tracks are very classic viewpoints with some more modern novelties thrown in that maintain the intrigue.

‘Weight of Love’ opens with a classic prog rock intent as the soaring lead riff breaks through the easy and drawn out sound. The bass and the rhythm after this are again so fluid and easy on the ear along with the lightly oscillating synths and organs. The vocal combination of Dan and the backing vocalists, which has been tried and tested, also works well here amongst a very distant and open musical landscape with the guitars growing from his lyrics. The song seems to evoke that sort of nothingness of regret in singing about ‘not giving in to the weight of love’. ‘Bullet In The Brain’ opens in much the same fashion with more classic methods of creating a spaced out and expansive sound though minimalism and simple echo and modulation. This steps up along with the songs tempo as it garners more of a purpose with gentle, flashes from the synths before the chorus kicks in with Dan’s wistful and echoed vocal. The contrast between the expansive elements and the more immediate guitars and percussion offer up that dual quality of being engaging on a distant level and enjoyable on a more basic level. ‘Waiting On Words’ features an indulgent falsetto that links in with the light shimmer of the organs and guitars. ’10 Lovers has more prominent and fluctuating bass line with simple acoustic fringes and wiry electronica to provide a more eccentric hook. ‘Gotta Get Away’ has a more classic rock pop feel to it with the rocking and swaying guitars, the thin organ melodies and the backing vocal harmonies. The album as whole is a faithful take on the past with a more soulful element along with more modern fringes and sides through effects and production from Burton. I like this new take they’ve taken up as it’s slick and easy in it’s entirety along with it’s delivery and even though it isn’t wholly innovative, it is an accomplished album which showcases their musical variation and prowess.

The Black Keys – Turn Blue = 7.5/10


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