The Black Keys could have done anything they wanted with this album. They had the world at their feet; following on from 2011’s El Camino the duo are now full time festival headlining, multi Grammy award winning, stadium fillers.
El Camino saw the boys take a step away from the bluesy roots they developed through earlier records to a more radio friendly, rock sound. Turn Blue sees that form continue with the magnification of a far deeper, more psychedelic sound than on previous releases. The textures and layers on the album are emphasised heavily; thanks in part to producer and long-time collaborator Danger Mouse.
From the outset it’s clear that this is no ordinary Black Keys album. ‘Weight of Love’ burns slowly and builds into an apocalyptic finish through countless solos. It’s quite the curve ball. It’s almost a bizarre metaphor for the album, following a huge 7 minute opening the weight has been lifted and the pair are free to explore.
They begin to expand; ‘Bullet in the Brain’ soars high from its acoustic start suiting Dan Auerbach’s high falsetto and building in to searing guitar while ‘It’s Up to You Now’ offers fuzzy riffs over thundering percussion, all the while changing direction at will. ’10 Lovers’ even comes through, dripping in an R’n’B sound that may surprise some Black Keys purists.
As a whole, the more expansive sound comes at the expense of a hoard of readymade singles, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They do though have 1 radio ready hit in the albums (unsurprising) lead single ‘Fever’. More synth driven than any previous efforts, it’s a sure fire festival favourite ready for the summer.
Lyrically, it’s almost impossible to escape the weight that Auerbach is carrying on his shoulders with his long running divorce proceedings ongoing through the albums writing and recording. From the opening line of ‘Weight of Love’ – “I used to think, darlin’, you never did nothin’, But you were always up to something” – the feel of the album is set early.
The full expanse of the album only really narrows on Turn Blue’s final track ‘Gotta Get Away’; a real country driven guitar stomp, reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It almost seems a bit out of place taking in to account the vastness of the rest of the album.
Overall it’s an interesting route for the Black Keys to take; it could maybe divide opinion among the long-time Black Key’s fans while it is sure to gain them new admirers – although it’s not such a step that the boys are likely to become part of the “I prefer their old stuff” cliché. The only thing that really puzzles is that having built their trade around being a blues influenced band, the time that Dan Auerbach was going through the blues was the time they took the biggest step away from it.
Reviewer: Darren Montgomery