Sound — 7
I can admit it now… I was worried.
When I heard the first single "Fever" from The Black Keys latest album "Turn Blue," I wondered if this once under the radar blues duo had in fact started sipping the kool-aid of modern rock radio just a little too much. I mean, how can a Black Keys' song completely abandon the guitar? On "Fever" the group traded in the six string in favor of the synth-heavy hand of (over)producer Danger Mouse, and I just prayed this was simply a ploy to win the favor of their radio overlords before getting back to the real music that garnered them so much acclaim in the less mainstream of music circles.
"Fever" needed to be the first single off the album because, thankfully, it was the only radio single I heard on "Turn Blue." There is no "Gold of the Ceiling," or "Lonely Boy" on this album, other than the aforementioned "Fever." And dare I say that you won't be seeing any TV commercials for adult diapers and suddenly hear a Black Keys' song playing.
As a whole, "Turn Blue" is much more laid back and sure of what it wants to be. It seemed like "El Camino" and "Brothers" were more along the lines of what this once obscure group thought they needed to produce to gain a foothold in the world of mainstream music. To their credit, it worked. Now, with Grammys under their belts and considerably more zeros in their bank accounts, the group appears to be getting back to making music without an agenda.
Upon listening to the very first track, "Weight of Love," it should become apparent that listeners are not in for the same type of songs they heard on the much poppier "El Camino." There will be a McConaughey-like "Alright Alright" moment as you slide back and get comfortable during the 2:08 instrumental that opens the nearly 7:00 first track of the album.
As I said, Danger Mouse is back to fill all the extra space with production. "Turn Blue" far from as striped down as many original fans would like to hear. I myself would love a few tracks with nothing but Dan and his Maestro fuzz guitar-riffing over Patrick's simple drum beats, but the sound of "Turn Blue" will have The Black Keys able to seamlessly do a duel headlining bill with Broken Bells and draw the same type of crowd.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrically, "Turn Blue" is a return to form for The Black Keys in that these songs do not find the hooks as quickly, or as easily as they did on the much more broad appeal of "El Camino."
As was widely publicized, singer Dan Auerbach was trying to find his way through a very public and very messy divorce from his wife Stephanie Gonis while this album was being made. As a result, those experiences naturally found their way onto a lot of "Turn Blue." It shouldn't be hard to identify Dan's source material for a song like "Waiting on Words," with lines like "Goodbye, I heard you were leaving/ Won't try changing your mind." The same can be said for the title track as Dan sings, "I could dream my head before my world turned blue/ And the light inside would only shine for you."
Dan's vocal range is once again on display with this album. He is able to find his falsetto quite regularly. For a track comparison, songs from the "Brothers" album, like "Everlasting Light" and "The Only One" would feel right at home on "Turn Blue."
Overall Impression — 7
Eyes-closed, head-bobbing grooves is the best way to describe the overall feel of "Turn Blue." Those fans hoping for loud, uptempo fuzz-drenched rockers like "Just Got to Be" or "Thickfeakness" may be in for a bit of a letdown, but, as someone whose favorite Black Keys' song is "The Lengths," I was pleasantly surprised with their eight studio offering.
"Turn Blue" begs to be bought on vinyl so you can just drop the needle as you try to entertain a female guest while praying you seem 1/10 as cool as this album sounds.
"Turn Blue" could have arrived in a time machine from 1974 with four lady backup singers dressed in velour jump suits. No one in mainstream music is making the kind of music The Black Keys are attempting to get away with on "Turn Blue." We will just have to wait and see if "Fever" was enough catnip to bait the I. "Weight of Love" and "Turn Blue" are the most impressive tracks on the album, while "Fever" and "Gotta Get Away" are the songs that will most frequently feel the cold sting of the skip button.