Review Summary: "Turn Blue is the best." "Lot of loyalty for a hired fan." "It's a pretty big record." "For you." "If I strip off that Danger Mouse production, would it die?" "It would be extremely painful."
The new Black Keys album is tripe.
Readers of this review are welcome to disagree, and to state why they disagree, but the point here is that the new Black Keys is tripe
. The band has been on a steady decline since Blakroc
came out, and Magic Potion
was arguably their peak, with the strongest collection of songs produced by the band to date while still shifting away from the early, raw blues they embodied towards a more conventional throwback rock sound. The last album the Keys put out, El Camino
, could be considered the culmination of this move towards accessibility, making butt-dad-rock (and way to blatantly “borrow” from Stairway to Heaven) for radio airplay on your local alternative-rock radio stations.
The new Black Keys is tripe, because it doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Auerbach and Carney obviously recognize the faults of their last release, and actively try to move away from that with Turn Blue
. They seem to want to keep their hardcore fan base while trying to appeal to a more casual audience. With this comes a complete shift in tone. Turn Blue
wants to be the less accessible Pink Floyd records, a slick Danger Mouse production, and a return to the basics of what made the band sound great, but neither of these directional approaches head anywhere. The tunes here meander from slick, almost disco-esque songwriting to superfluous, psychedelic musings and half-hearted attempts at soul/gospel.
Songs like “Fever” indulge themselves in chintzy organ jamming and slow-burn dance aesthetic while songs like “Weight of Love” so desperately want to be Floydian in nature while keeping the band’s reputation for writing slick, three-minute tunes that can only muster up a modicum of heart.
Turn Blue is mediocre, because it sounds like the Black Keys.
Look, Auerbach and Carney are never going to change their formula. It’s arguably too successful for them not to, but this is where the problem lies. The idea behind the sound (throwback blues) may be an inherently good thing (although this really depends on your views of throwback rock and if its canonization in the history of music is of significance or if it’s just an unnecessary footnote), but the band’s sound has stagnated. It features the same type of Danger Mouse production that the last three Keys records had: tinny and under-produced while putting huge emphasis on guitar, keyboards, and vocals. The only difference is the bass is more prominent this time around.
A band like the Black Keys can’t afford to stagnate, or maybe they can. If I could accurately predict the way music fans think, then I would assume that said fans are getting bored of hearing the same exact record every couple years or so. This is probably great for fans of the Keys, but for everyone else, it’s best if you just sleep on its existence.
You can find the stream here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/station/first-play-black-keys-turn/idra.862705000