21 May 2014

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

As part of my recent celebration of another lap of the planet I was given a few albums.  I have already done a review of one of them - 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich' - and will soon be looking at the other very shortly.  But I thought I would look at this one first.  This is the eighth release from Akron natives and their third album that has been made with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton who was responsible for the mash-up album 'The Grey Album'.  It follows on from the Grammy monster release 'El Camino' and is their second release with Nonesuch.  These guys have been going since 2001 and slowly they have been getting bigger and bigger until they have became arena giants - sort of like The White Stripes but without the suggestion of an strange and freaky relationship.  Now whilst I have been trying to get a blog done on their first album for a while, I have been able to get this one out obviously a lot quick.  But how does it sound?

The band start with the very retro and slow "Weight Of Love", this is not the expected stomp to attention that has opened most of the Black Keys albums I have heard, it is an six minute epic that might have a few of the casual fans reaching for the door.  But this track should be given the full attention that it deserves, starting with the solo and descending into a moody and painful number of heart break and love. It does feel like a natural progression from 'El Camino' and it is a very brave opener which may be talked about for years to come.  "In Turn" hardly sets the fires burning either in terms of energy; it is cut for a similar vein of rock that "Weight Of Love" was forged from.  It is a good song which keeps the interest fixed on the album, but will this be a common theme for the album?  If "Turn Blue" is the answer, then yes - it is another slow number with minimal guitar work, some strange electronic noises and relaxed drumming as well. The album has opened with an after party feeling and the chill out vibe is particularly effective on this track.

Next is lead single "Fever" which picks up the pace a bit, it reminds me a little of Danger Mouse's other band Gnarls Barkley and their classic "Crazy" in style; however as that is one of the best pop songs I have ever heard due to its simple nature, that is really not a bad thing.  It seems to lose its way before the end of the song, but it is a stomping number.   "Year In Review" is a number that I cannot decide what to make of it, it have energy and the playing is top notch; but there is too much empty space for me to really fall head over heels with the song.  I just cannot make up my mind with it, I have a feeling in years to come I will love it as I have been thinking about it for days on end.  It is just an enigma to me and for the reason alone it is an interesting addition to the record.  "Bullet In The Brain" brings the chill back to the album, slowing down whatever energy that it had until the 50 second mark where the drums come back into effect.  Much more straight forward and very positive (apart from the title and lyrics obviously - boy was the band on a downer when they wrote this).  "It's Up To You Now" starts off with a tribal drumming pattern that makes the listener want to start to jump around and will be a brilliant addition to their live set when they tour over the next year or so; especially the blues breakdown in the middle of the song - sometimes you cannot keep a good blues band down.

"Waiting On Words" is a slow number on the end of a relationship and not knowing what is going to happen.  Again, it is very low energy but it is not low in quality. This is just a beautiful little song and makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention.  But I am wishing for a little more energy at this point and the band delivers this in the form of the funky and slutty "10 Lovers".  The groove is on during this song, whilst not being the most bouncing of numbers it is a quality song on the album.  "In Our Prime" starts off with a slow piano, then comes in the drums, guitars and the broken heart lyrics that make this album follow down that particular river that it has been heading down from beginning to end.  But there is a sideways shift and all of a sudden you are in a Beatles tribute with the bass line bouncing around, then comes the organ and you have the most diverse track of the album.  Again I am not sure if I like it, love it or hate it; but it is another track that I have been focusing on, all the hallmarks that this album is a grower and not an instant classic.  However before I reach a conclusion, there is still the small matter of the ending track "Gotta Get Away".  It is a fun track, but it sounds strange next to the rest of the album.  Not exactly sure how it made it onto the album, but there you go.

So what conclusions can we make from this album then?  Well, someone had their heart handed to them on a plate that is for sure.  This has breakup album written all over it and it really affect the album to its core.  The band and producer are obviously very comfortable with each other, the sound is rich and this album will probably deserve a higher mark than the one I am about to deliver.  It is very good, but it has grower stickers placed all over it - much like a lamp post in Camden, London.  I sort of wonder what this album would have been like with a different man at the helm with the band on production duties.  But that is for a drunken conversation around a pub table with my friends.  This is a good record, but don't expect to be bowled over by it.  This album is in it for the long game.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top Track - Weight Of Love

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Black Keys website here

The album is not in Spotify and Deezer.  You will have to purchase the album to hear it!  There is a page for it on Spotify, but it shows that The Black Keys have decided not to put it on Spotify (I can understand why and why not to have your albums on there, but it is not my place to judge either band or Spotify - here is a link to the page.

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