Review Summary: Learning to Cope.
I don't blame Auerbach and Carney for making this record; fu
ck, I applaud it. Ideally, these type of records shouldn't exist, but such is the pitfall of success; to avoid certain hubris, one must be content enough to bring difficulty to their craft and alienate all and entertain few. To draw out the point, one must avoid "selling out", and cut the fairweather from the dedicated.
Whether or not a sexual connotation applies, Turn Blue
is frustration personified. Whether the Black Keys liked it or not, they were traveling headlong down a highway where the endgame meant crowds 80,000 strong chanting "Lonely Boy", while the band tried to prove there were six other albums they'd accomplished their chutzpah on before it all blew up. Whether they liked it or not, new found fame was as much a curse as it was a blessing, Turn Blue
clarifying that The Black Keys are not an easy band.
For us as an audience, it means that Auerbach/Carney have strayed away from the song-oriented mantra that charged the success of Brothers
and glass-ceiling smasher El Camino
. Opener "Weight of Love" is apparent in its overlong nature, featuring cavernous low-end and Auerbach's dazed vocal performance; clearly their longest number to date if not for how droning and lumbering it is (strangely though, lacking in much menace). A romanticized headache though it may be, it's sonically far more impressive than the acid-soaked presence implied by the hypnotic themes. In earnest, The Black Keys are left with a series of tunes that run the gamut between Barret-era Floyd and Gilmour-era Floyd. Remarkably, it always remains sincere- peyote hallucinations take hold on "Bullet in the Brain", tensile dancehall fu
cker "It's Up to You Now"- but it hardly ever seems, in Layman's terms, entertaining
. It's understandable that these two are attempting to distance themselves from maniacal ego, hubris and excess; Turn Blue
however manifests itself as a punishment for the casuals and a testament to loyalty.
Absent of a single, The Black Keys don't reach the same level of crossover appeal perfected on their previous efforts; instead, they solidify their identity and narrow down their audience. Undeniably, it leaves The Black Keys with a smaller audience but higher artistic presence in the 21st Century, and we'd all much prefer that than more middle-aged men in plaid flannel shirts protesting that 'rock needs a comeback!'
I know I would.