Album review: The Black Keys - Turn Blue

Prolific Akron, Ohio, duo Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have released eight albums in the last 12 years, but although their star has risen steadily during that time it was the attention-grabbing double of 2010’s sixth record Brothers and 2011’s Grammy-winning follow-up El Camino which shot them into the genuine big-time, both grisly selections of thumping rockers led by fiery good-time anthems like Tighten Up and Lonely Boy.

The Black Keys Picture: Contributed
The Black Keys Picture: Contributed

The Black Keys

Turn Blue

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Nonesuch, £13.99


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By contrast, however, Turn Blue (its existence and title having rather oddly been announced in a tweet from Mike Tyson after he agreed to do the band a favour) is a record which seeks a change of pace while pushing against the inescapable realisation that there’s only so much you can do when your guitar player is out front and turned up loud. If this were the 1970s the record might have been described as “experimental”, but these days it’s most redolent of a sense of staid and inflexible classicism.

In fairness, though, it’s worth pointing out that it sounds beautiful, thanks to the production of Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, and that there are many low-key but pleasurable moments.

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The title track prowls on Auerbach’s fragile falsetto, Waiting On Words is a light, lazy West Coast country rock ballad for the summertime, and the closing Gotta Get Away is a chiming rocker to match early-70s Rolling Stones or Faces.

Yet these are set against the meandering, proggy Weight Of Love and a couple of swooning inconsequentialities like Fever and Bullet In The Brain, songs which seem more intent on recreating an era than defining their own.

David Pollock

Download: Waiting On Words, Gotta Get Away