Having been a Black Keys fan since the far and away times of 2006’s Magic Potion, listening to the duo’s stylistic evolution every album has been a curious and rarely disappointing adventure. Holding out hope after the relative misfire of 2011’s El Camino that the Keys’ next record would once again see the bluesy-grooving end of Dan Auerbach’s spectrum proved successful – the Akron boys have done it again. Having submerged themselves in the rivers Dr. John and Curtis Mayfield, the mysticism that seemed to have vanished from the duo as of late has auspiciously returned on Turn Blue.
To follow suit with fellow musical prognosticators and call Turn Blue the act’s pysch-garage catalogue entry wouldn’t be doing it justice (This reviewer is certainly concerned with the justice of genre assignments, isn’t he?) In fact, it’s truly unlike anything The Black Keys the released before (a good phrase to use when words fail you and you’re bowled over by an album.) It’s certainly gritty, psychedelic, bluesy, and has exquisite bass throughout – but it’s no re-hash of any prior work, it’s just marvelously done. Auerbach’s guitar work is once again top-notch, tracks like “It’s Up to You Now” and “Weight of Love” reminding us of his deserved position in the annals of guitar demagoguery.
A great deal of gratitude must be extended unto our doting producer Brian Burton – it’s refreshing to hear another Danger Mouse production that sounds so patently like his body of work that defined him as an auteur of the ‘aughts. It seems that Burton had created a dissonance of sorts recently wherein if it wasn’t Gnarls Barkley or Broken Bells it had better fucking sound like it. (This method, though hard to believe, was not advantageous to many projects.)
Turn Blue is yet another entirely different beast for the Black Keys. In one sense it’s paying homage to the blues and funk progenitors and current practitioners that show thems young folks how it’s done. It’s also Auerbach and Carney getting back into the fucking groove after their past album was wholly appropriated into the context of Duck Dynasty marathons and cable television spots. The Black Keys are, after all, a rock duo and it’s satisfying to hear them act that role, if even in a surreptitious manner.
I await the next Black Keys album, which will likely verge into zydeco and post-industrial-punk-dub production helmed by Butch Vig. There ought not be any contempt for Auerbach expanding his horizons, so long as it’s deeply steeped in the blues and ran through the filter of Junior Kimbrough.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.