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The Black Keys - Turn Blue Album Cover

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

Reviewed by
4.5
The Black Keys - Turn Blue
Record Label: Nonesuch
Release Date: May 12, 2014
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Whatever happened to all those other bands from the early 00s garage rock revival? What about The Von Bondies, for example? They had that one song that was pretty good--you know, the theme song from the TV show Rescue Me--why couldn't they have been the last band of that set left standing? Granted, The Strokes and Kings of Leon aren't quite dead yet, but the former hasn't put out a record worth mentioning in over a decade and the latter has long since outstayed its welcome with the mainstream as the saviors of vapid arena rock.

Like it or not, ever since The White Stripes went out with a concert DVD and a whimper, The Black Keys--comprised of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney--have been The Last REAL Rock Band Left Standing. These two scruffy men from Ohio have valiantly fought "the good fight," armed only with the meatiest of bottom-heavy riffs to chase the Foster the People's and Cage the Elephant's from the rock radio world. Or something.

All kidding aside, the Keys' commercial success and mainstream popularity really is fairly astounding. Remember how ubiquitous "Tighten Up" was about three or so years ago, or "Gold on the Ceiling" the year after? And it's not like these guys are just a singles band either: they've gone platinum with both Brothers and El Camino. With the help of producer Danger Mouse (one half of Gnarls Barkley, one half of Broken Bells, creator of The Grey Album) The Black Keys have built an empire without doing too much besides plugging in and rocking out like they've done since they started in an Akron basement.

Arriving on the heels of the group’s tightest and most cohesive work in their epoch of commercial success, Turn Blue presents as a "change of direction" record. But what it actually amounts to is a hazy mid-tempo slog that will either make you wish for your forty-six minutes back, put you to sleep, or both.

Turn Blue isn’t just a disappointing and unfocused showing; that could be forgiven with a shrug and a quick drag-and-drop to the trash bin. Instead it's a mercifully rare example of an accomplished band making a record so dull it's almost offensive. Turn Blue has two problems: the songs suck, and Auerbach, Carney and Danger Mouse all fall prey to their most masturbatory instincts at once. The onus for the first is squarely on Auerbach and Carney's shoulders, but it's easy to stray into the "this is all Danger Mouse's fault" camp.

That’s not really fair though when Auerbach and Carney have filled up a record with tracks either as wholly forgettable as midtempo blues lite numbers like “It’s Up to You Now” or as mindnumbingly boring as opener “Weight of Love” or “Bullet in the Brain.” The only partial salvation on the whole damn album is the no-frills closer “Gotta Get Away.” The title befits the song, as this decidedly Southern-leaning rocker closes the record on an upbeat noet. It’s vapid fun, but coming after the monochromatic wash of the record’s body it doesn’t sound too bad at all!

Glossy production is nothing new in this era of the Black Keys, but this album's heady psychedelic swirl serves poorly as a backdrop for the increasingly bland pop-rock numbers and the whole thing just comes up a boring mess. Although Auerbach is almost certainly at fault for some of the layers of faux-psychedelic sheen--see his work with Ray LeMontagne this year--Turn Blue sounds a ton like that awful Broken Bells record from a few months back too. On both records Danger Mouse throws handbells, organs, drum loops and a host of ill-advised effects wizardry in the mix haphazardly, and on Turn Blue it keeps the band from truly getting in a groove and rocking out. And while a Broken Bells album isn’t exactly going to groove much, if you can’t get the Keys to groove or rock then you’re fucking up colossally.

This record is guaranteed to indiscriminately piss off both kinds of Black Keys fans: the diehard purists yearning for the blues rock halcyon days and the recent devotees primed for another round of hooky singles. And rightfully so because it is, in a word, awful.

4.5/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 79
10:26 AM on 06/26/14
#2
crf1895
get kinda awesome
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whoa
10:29 AM on 06/26/14
#3
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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I love this review.
10:33 AM on 06/26/14
#4
TylerHartman
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I disagree wholeheartedly that the White Stripes went out with a whimper. Jack just outgrew Meg and wanted to expand his virtuosity. As for the Black Keys, I enjoyed their early stuff a bit, and even liked a couple songs off the last album. This one, however, is not so good.
10:41 AM on 06/26/14
#5
thechetearly
thechetearly
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Hahaha this review. so great.
10:49 AM on 06/26/14
#6
theherox
As of 10/3, pronounced "Thoreau"
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I really can't stand Danger Mouse's work, nothing since The Grey Album
11:07 AM on 06/26/14
#7
Vance Mook
Fastest Kid in School
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Yeah, this review is fantastic Chris. I was never much into this subsection of indie blues-rock revival, but for some reason, I was really hoping this would be the album to turn me onto the Black Keys. It was not. There are fun moments here and there, particularly "Fever" and "Gotta Get Away," but everything else about this album is a total bore. I guess I'll have to give Brothers or El Camino a try.
11:14 AM on 06/26/14
#8
Jake Jenkins
jakej654.bandcamp.com
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Yeah, this review is fantastic Chris. I was never much into this subsection of indie blues-rock revival, but for some reason, I was really hoping this would be the album to turn me onto the Black Keys. It was not. There are fun moments here and there, particularly "Fever" and "Gotta Get Away," but everything else about this album is a total bore. I guess I'll have to give Brothers or El Camino a try.
Listen to rubber factory
11:17 AM on 06/26/14
#9
Vance Mook
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Listen to rubber factory
I believe my roommate has their entire discography, so I'll have to do that. My brother recommended thickfreakness, as well as their debut (which may or may not be one of those- I have yet to do my Black Keys research haha).
11:27 AM on 06/26/14
Chris Collum
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Yeah Rubber Factory will put the proverbial hair on your chest, fantastic blues rock record
11:34 AM on 06/26/14
jco3
Hi.
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So I take it this record was a little off (black) key(s)?
12:10 PM on 06/26/14
Thomas Nassiff
resuscitation of the year
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well done takedown of an album that deserved to be taken down.
12:15 PM on 06/26/14
TheDemosRock
What's a fuckass?
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I disagree wholeheartedly that the White Stripes went out with a whimper. Jack just outgrew Meg and wanted to expand his virtuosity. As for the Black Keys, I enjoyed their early stuff a bit, and even liked a couple songs off the last album. This one, however, is not so good.
"going out with a whimper" in the sense that they didn't go out with a bang, not that they declined as a band until fading away.
12:22 PM on 06/26/14
TylerHartman
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"going out with a whimper" in the sense that they didn't go out with a bang, not that they declined as a band until fading away.
I'll take it.
12:32 PM on 06/26/14
jimmyeatsboys
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well earned.

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