With the release of lead single ‘Fever’ and ‘Turn Blue’ soon after one would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the Black Keys, after thirteen years of producing some of the rawest rock music of modern times, were playing it safe.
The mellow flavour of the second single had many worried that the band had opted to go for gentler sounds after such a busy career (many had also forgotten the band’s slower pace songs on albums such as Brothers and Attack & Release). Listening to Turn Blue proves that The Black Keys are louder and bolder than ever.
The opening track ‘Weight of Love’ is a near seven minute odyssey, with guitar work reminiscent of Pink Floyd or Santana. Pre album singles are found early into the album, with “Turn Blue” giving a genius slowing of the pace before the much played ‘Fever’ brings it up again. ‘Year In Review’ marks the return of the backing vocals that added such great depth to Dan Auerbach’s vocals on El Camino. Here they make for an atmospheric echo that works incredibly with the blues guitar and are also deployed to great effect on “10 Lovers”
Blues and garage rock are once again the main frames utilised by the band but listeners of Turn Blue are treated to a sound rarely used by the Black Keys – progressive rock. The album opener is a fine example, with ‘Bullet in the Brain’ further allowing Auerbach to explore this sound. Drummer Patrick Carney is fine form, with his show stealer coming from his raw and heavy contribution to ‘It’s Up To You Now’ – the track that is perhaps the closest to older material. Auerbach has become globally renowned for his guitar work and this album will bring even more acclaim. Despite moving away from the delightfully filthy solos of earlier works he is still able to blow you away with his guitar solos – perhaps the crème de la crème being found on ‘In Our Prime’
Turn Blue is undoubtedly the band’s most refined album yet – long term producer Danger Mouse returns, having first revolutionised the sound of their albums in 2008 when the band moved away from their home-grown sound. The use of bass, keys and mixing is at its most significant yet with the album having a polished feel that would have seemed alien to the band upon formation. This allows The Black Keys to fully explore the hypnotic theme established when one looks at the cover art and inner sleeve of the cover. Each song has layer upon layer of interwoven sounds that draws the listener in, and the result is simply stunning. This summer sees The Black Keys on the main stages at Latitude (wear they have headliner status), Reading & Leeds and of course, Glastonbury. With this epic album they have demonstrated even more how much they are worthy of such monumental stages.