Black Keys’ Style Takes a Turn on Turn Blue

By Danny Thompson

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The Black Keys are one of today’s premier rock acts, and they expand their sound with every release. On “Turn Blue” they head in a psychedelic direction with the use of more synthesizers and the help of producer Danger Mouse. It brings the gritty midwestern blues of their earlier albums to today’s indie and psychedelic rock loving audience.

Weight Of Love: A spacey and ethereal sounding intro gives way into a dirty little guitar solo and the main groove of the song. This track has a very out-there vibe to it because of the way it is produced and the use of a synthesizer, but it remains true to The Black Keys’ garage rock roots. It’s almost as if someone were to mash-up Incubus and Arctic Monkeys.

In Time: A piano opening transitions into a pretty groovy jam. This one has more of a dance floor-y feel to it that makes you want to clap on two and four, but there’s no denying that it still has a place in the always bluesy Black Keys catalogue.

Turn Blue: This track makes the point that the Black Keys want to be considered PSYCHEDELIC blues rock, not just blues rock, from now on. The bass sort of bubbles its way through the track, making the whole thing feel “out there.”

Fever: Synth time! …Again. A synthesizer drives the main riff of the song, but aside from that I’m slowly realizing that the first four tracks on this album kind of sound the same. It’s definitely a new and expanded Black Keys sound, but that only goes so far. I’m happy to see The Black Keys doing something they haven’t done before, and it doesn’t sound bad, it just sounds the same.

Year In Review: This one sounds a little different than the others and a little more like it could be on an earlier Black Keys album. For the first time on this record, the bass actually sounds like it is being played on a bass and not just a computer made to sound like a bass. A chorus of harmonizing vocals and some strings spice things up and give it a haunting feel.

Strange Times: Here’s a song that knows what it is and who it’s being played by. Overdriven guitar, steady drum beat, a cool chorus with a walk down the bass, and finally some vocals that aren’t at the very top of singer Dan Auerbach’s range make this the best song on the album so far.

It’s Up To You Now: If I were to again compare this track to another artist, I’d say Black Sabbath. It’s mainly guitar driven, has a pretty sick break down followed by a guitar solo. This and the last track capture what I love about the Black Keys: dirty guitars and more dirty guitars.

Waiting on Words: Things lighten up and slow down a little bit, as this song has a much cleaner sounding guitar and higher vocals. Again, Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney make extensive use of trippy synthesizer noises, and it works, but then again the trippy synthesizer thing has lost its novelty by this point on the album.

10 Lovers: Another song that sounds like the first four on the album. By no means is it bad; I would probably turn it up if it came on the radio, but The Black Keys are trying too hard to be “psychedelic” at this point.

In Our Prime: This track starts slow but speeds up and builds in intensity throughout before slowing down as it goes into a really nice, emotional solo.

Gotta Get Away: This is a really fun track. After ten minor keyed blues tracks comes in a major keyed sing along jam that would sound right at home in any country or rock band’s song book.

Overall, I enjoyed the album because it is a Black Keys album and they are amazing musicians, but this isn’t them at their best. I’d say this record is one to listen to in its entirety before you purchase it, but it’s a solid release.

3/5 Stars