Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Album Review: The Black Keys - 'Turn Blue'

A open letter to an ex-wife

 A month and a half after the release of the first single 'Fever', The Black Keys have released their eighth studio album 'Turn Blue'.  This has been there longest stint between albums with it being almost three years after 'El Camino' came out and made them arena touring megastars.  'Turn Blue' doesn't quite have the tempo the Keys set out to create from 'El Camino', but it sure has the funk.  Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney talked about the tracks on 'El Camino' as being written "to play live".  'Turn Blue' might have the opposite or at least completely different feel.  The Keys have mentioned its more of a "headphones type album" meaning its a throw the vinyl on, throw the headphones on, sit back, relax and enjoy the experience of the 45 minute album to completion.  It is a full album, song by song.  Not a 'hit single' album.  Although 'Fever' has a catchy tune and up-tempo beat, most of the rest of the album is deep and dark, with lyrics clearly generated from Auerbach's recent divorce.  The Keys decided in fact that they are at a point in their career where they can do anything they want.  They did with 'Turn Blue'.  Let's review the album, song by song and see how it matches up to their previous work...

01. Weight of Love
The album starts off in rumbling fury with this nearly 7 minute track that sends into a trance and never looks back.  The song has an up and down feel that reminds me a bit of 'Attack & Release' or 'Magic Potion' tracks.  Auerbach clearly jumps into the pain and stress his life has seen by moaning and riffing throughout the track.  'Weight of Love' has an incredible mix of lyrics, guitar solo and enough groove to make this an instant classic Keys song.  What a leadoff hitter this is.  A 7 minute song to start off a 45 minute album.  Only The Black Keys can pull it off.

02. In Time

'In Time' picks up right where 'Weight of Love' leaves off.  Almost the same beat starts off the track that the first track ends with and Auerbach goes into his famous falsetto and serenades "You've got a worried mind...I've got a worried heart".  Another clear call out to his struggled relationship.  Is this a dedication album to his ex-wife?  Whatever it is, it makes for fantastic music.

03. Turn Blue (READ THIS: The Black Keys release single 'Turn Blue')

'Turn Blue' shows a psychedelic vibe.  After listening for the fourth or fifth time, I realized The Black Keys have reverted back to the place that they began discover themselves.  'Turn Blue' belongs on the A side of a Steve Miller Band album.  It could easily be dropped into 'Book of Dreams' somewhere between 'Jet Airliner' and 'Swingtown'  It holds the same complexity and groove that lulls you and moves you and the same time.  Its a sit down, chill out and close your eyes type track.

04. Fever (READ THIS: The Black Keys release new single 'Fever')

'Fever' picks up right where 'El Camino' left off three years ago with a beat that will be conducive to making arenas across the world bob their heads.  It is evident that Dan and Pat took producing instruction from Danger Mouse on the song as it sounds as it fits perfectly into the songs off of their last three hit records, Attack & Release, Brothers and 'Camino.  Dan Auerbach's smooth voice glides over the perfectly engineered beats from Danger Mouse and the tag-a-long percussion from Patrick Carney.  It also fits well into the body of the album as at this point a bit more pace was needed.  Although the lyrics are a bit vanilla, the beat does the job.

05. Year in Review

Another painful and dark track as Auerbach starts with "Why you always wanna love the ones who hurt you?  Then break down when they go and desert you..." I hate to say this, but Auerbach's pain is my pleasure as you can hear his heart breaking through every word of this song.  Another track that ends perfectly as it slowly tinkers complete, ending side A.

06. Bullet in the Brain

Side B picks up where side A leaves off.  Another falsetto masterpiece that starts slow, but picks up and cranks off.  Starts slow, picks up, hits the chorus and slows then picks up and goes up and down throughout.  Another dark track in which Auerbach moans, "Looking back on where we used to be...Everything was clear, still I refuse to see...Hearts began to burst...The diamond turned to dust"

07. It's Up To You Now

Probably my favorite track on the album.  A furious beat and combo of Carney's drums and Auerbach's voice makes this track jump through the speakers.  An insane pace to start and then gets drawn out a bit for guitar riffing.  Then closer to the end picks up again to make this the next potential single.  It has to be, it kills.

08. Waiting on the Words

This is probably the only song I'm on the fence on through the whole album.  The falsetto starts off raspy which throws me off.  It sounds strained and tried too hard.  The beat never picks up as I thought it might.  Although I'm not a huge fan, it does fit into the landscape of the album so it gets points there.  It just doesn't feel clean enough.

09. 10 Lovers

This song starts out funky enough and has a combo of normal Auerbach mixed with falsetto Auerbach almost feuding with himself on the mic.  I originally thought the song was going to be about his ex-wife getting with 10 different lovers, but he's actually detailing his pain is as strong as if he would have been left by 10 lovers.  Pretty deep.

10. In Our Prime

A little piano opens the track and the misery continues as Auerbach complains about what was once had and now what is gone.  Looking for comfort from friends, but not getting what he needs from anyone.  Explaining "The house it burned, but nothing there was mine...We had it all when we were in our prime" as though life has not been normal for a long time.  So much discomfort in a groovy track.  Probably one of my least favorite tracks beat wise.

11.  Gotta Get Away

The last track is oddly upbeat almost as an eff you.  As if Auerbach's over it all and done complaining.  "I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo...Just to get away from you" is his way of saying he's running away from his problems.  He hits the blacktop and keeps running and doesn't look back.  Almost a perfect sendoff.

All in all what a deep and dark and sad album.  The beat matches the feel and on sixth or seventh listen I'm drawn to it.  I'm not sure where this matches up to their previous LPs.  I'd like to say it's pretty high up on my list, but it's just so non-descript.  It probably can be dropped behind 'Brothers', 'Rubber Factory', 'Thickfreakness' and 'Attack & Release'.  That's saying a lot because those four albums to me are in my top 15-20 albums.

It really is a full album, meant to be played start to finish.  It tells the story of Auerbach's last couple of years of struggle.  It is almost a sin to pull tracks off of this album for singles, because those singles are only chapters in the story.

Get it.

1 comment:

Hey man! Tell me what you think!