Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Black Keys - Turn Blue (2014)

The Black Keys, 'Fever'

Info: The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, may have been knocking around since their wonderfully raw blues rock debut, The Big Come Up, back in 2002, but it wasn't really until 2010's Brothers that they marched into mainstream consciousness. That album was quickly followed by the equally successful El Camino, with both albums providing numerous hits that kept them floating in and around the charts for the guts of 16 months, and turned a significant enough number of fans into a legion.

It can often be the case during such stark changes that bands can wilt under expectation or shift focus from their 'sound' to what they think new fans will demand, even if the hitherto formula is altered slightly, it can make an unholy mess. I often think of the Kings of Leon, who had music critics like putty in their hands after their fantastic first album, Youth & Young Manhood and it's follow up Aha Shake Heartbreak. Huge commercial success arrived with their third and fourth albums before they spectacularly imploded and turned into a painfully middle of the road stadium act. Thankfully, The Black Keys have avoided such pitfalls and Turn Blue sees them retain their seemingly effortless ability to meld laid back blues riffs with lo-fi ballads and some early sounds.

The Black Keys, '10 A.M. Automatic', from Rubber Factory, 2004

Turn Blue is not a major departure from Brothers and El Camino, and as early as the opening track, 'Weight of Love' this much is obvious, but the standard of the songs remains high nonetheless. The one striking exception I would have to make is the second single on the album (video at top) 'Fever' which is catchy enough but perhaps a little uninspired and safe. The second single, title track 'Turn Blue' is more interesting, a heavy bass led chilled out song, that leaves you feeling nice and mellow the whole way through. One of my favourites though is the seventh track 'It's Up To You Now' which sounds more like early Black Keys, and then half-way through drifts into psychedelic 13th Floor Elevators type lead guitar before coming back around again at the end. Another great track is the luscious 'In Our Prime' with great guitar-playing from Auerbach reminiscent of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain

The Black Keys, 'In Our Prime'

There's more good than average tracks on Turn Blue, which ultimately should keep everyone happy, I would have preferred a bit more of their old grungey sound back, because when the two of these guys let fly on electric guitar and drums it's a joy to behold, especially live. It's early days but out of their 8 albums to date I can possibly see Turn Blue having the least longevity for me personally, having said that, their are a good chunk of tracks on the album that stand out. While it was understandable that their previous 2 albums would be similar sounding, I would have hoped after a 3 year gap we might have been a little more surprised, it would be nice on their next outing if they pumped up the volume.

Album Rating: 3 / 5

Turn Blue is out on the 13th of May

Recommend any other Black Keys' albums?: The Big Come Up (2002), Rubber Factory (2004), Brothers (2010)

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