The Black Keys seem to know exactly when a change is needed. Not content with just sitting still musically, they have a constantly morphing sound and attitude that has led them on a journey most other bands would kill for. As soon as you thought their early garage blues rock sound would start to get boring, they change it up with the addition of producer Danger Mouse to add some variety. As soon as you feel maybe that could take its toll, they release a record under the name Blakroc, and collaborate with some of hip-hop’s finest with outstanding results. And before you know it, we arrive at their eighth full length album entitled Turn Blue, and again the sound has evolved into a whole new beast.
Album opener Weight of Love gently guides you in with a track that shows off the new string to their bow – psychedelic rock. Drawing on Pink Floyd and The Doors, it’s a 6 minute plus monolith that’s very brave to kick off the record – twisting and alternating between music and vocals before heading into a mammoth guitar solo which is much more technical than earlier Black Keys tracks. Bullet in the Brain also draws heavily on psychedelia, and with producing duties once again lying in the capable hands of Danger Mouse, he gives it that distinct edge that the band are renowned for.
Waiting On Words throws off a Prince vibe with its high-strung vocals and hip-hop drums, whereas album-titled track Turn Blue almost sounds like chillout music in areas – subdued, pretty and innocent, it gives an insight to depth and variety that band members Dan and Patrick have learned to hone.
With all this variation in sound and music, the album needs something to draw you back to who the band are and where they’re from; lead single Fever does exactly that. This is classic Black Keys stuff – simple drums, hypnotic sounds, and although not as instantly likeable as say, previous singles like Lonely Boy, give it a few listens and it’ll be in your head for days. Fever draws on the layout of the bands early material and adds to it with psychedelia and a wealth of experience.
In Our Prime is another example of past meets present, with inter-song tempo changes and singer Dan Auerbach crooning about being “hungry for change”. This hunger is present throughout the record and makes it even more fun to know that after so many albums, you can still hear a couple of experts enjoying evolving a band unlike many others out there.
A small criticism could be the order of songs. Weight of Love would have been more suited to being the album closer with its enormity, but instead the record seems to come to an abrupt stop with the country-laden Gotta Get Away. This is, however, only a minor detail on an otherwise tremendous collection of songs.
Some people don’t like change, but those people are, quite frankly, idiots. Bands need to tempt fate and make courageous leaps of faith in music if they are to grow, and The Black Keys wouldn’t be where they are today without their variety. Turn Blue is a perfect example of the chameleon-like energy that flows through the band, and it’s the reason why they are currently one of the world’s leaders in rock music – long may they continue.