Heartache and melancholy guitars
“Turn Blue” is album numero eight from blues/rock duo The Black Keys and is more of a guitar-orientated record than their hit 2011 release “El Camino”. Released in May of 2014, “Turn Blue” isn’t as ‘poppy’ as their previous album and harks back to some of their earlier work such as 2006’s “Magic Potion” and 2008’s “Attack & Release”.
The band worked with producer and songwriter Danger Mouse (aka Brian Joseph Burton) on “El Camino” and he joined them in the studio again to co-produce and co-write the material for “Turn Blue”. Most of the 11 songs on the album do have a more melancholic tone to them and long-gone are the upbeat tempos of tracks like “Lonely Boy” and “Nova Baby” from the previous record. This somber tone can be attributed to singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach’s divorce from his wife which was finalised during the recording of “Turn Blue”. “I’ve never relied on music to get me through anything like I did on this one. This past year, I realised how fortunate I was to have this thing I can do: making music, and lyrically, saying things that are personal,” said Auerbach about the writing process for the record. And these personal feelings are clearly heard throughout the record, complementing the weeping guitar riffs and solos and the slow, steady bass lines and emphatic keyboards.
“Weight of Love” is the opening track to this intimate, yet complex album and at nearly seven minutes long it encompasses and presents the feelings and emotions of the rest of the album. It’s sort of like a preview of what’s to come in the remaining songs. I can’t help but feel that the guys spent a lot of time listening to Pink Floyd records and some of the more ‘moody’ stuff from the Rolling Stones and this comes across in the choir-like backing vocals and dark, almost psychedelic outro of the song.
The first single, “Fever” is musically one of the few upbeat tracks they wrote, yet with lyrics like “Fever ‘cause I’m breaking, fever got me aching…just go ahead and kill me,” it’s clear that pain and emotional suffering were essential pieces of this album. “Year in Review” continues down this emotional roller coaster with the opening lines “Why you always wanna love the ones who hurt you? Then break down when they go and desert you,” and choir-like vocals that remind one of the intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones.
While “El Camino” had its fair share of guitar sounds, “Turn Blue” is a record where Auerbach truly lets his guitar sing and the riffs and solos he plays complement every single lyric and Patrick Carney keeps it all together with his strong, rhythmic drumming. “In Our Prime” is a prime example (excuse the pun) of Auerbach’s guitar playing, which really shines on this record. The song starts off with a slow, sad piano section before the guitar creeps in with an equally sad few notes. The words penned for this track drip with even more dejection. “Like every lover hovers in my mind, we made our mark when we were in our prime,” builds the song up to one of the finest solos Auerbach has ever played – a distorted solo played through a wah-wah pedal for an even more emotive crying-sound that fades out slowly as the song draws to a close. The close-knit chemistry between Auerbach and Carney is highlighted even more in the thumping rock number “It’s Up To You Know”, where Carney’s hard-hitting drums and Auerbach’s cheeky guitar playing relay a more raw and unencumbered attitude that builds up to a ghostly guitar solo mid-way through the song, this time one that’s filled with a passion and anger as if to say “enough is enough, I’m doing what I want!”
Their story comes to a close on a somewhat surprising, uplifting note with the almost joyous “Gotta Got Away”. As with “Fever”, the music is more uplifting and enthusiastic but the lyrics still reflect a sense of disdain but this time with a subtle hint of sarcasm and relief – “I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo just to get away from you. I searched far and wide, hopin’ I was wrong, but maybe all the good women are gone.” The guys agreed that they wanted to end the record with a more uplifting track with Carney saying “It erases your brain from whatever heavy elements there are in the record.”
The album, released on Nonesuch Records debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts in the US and has also reached number one in Australia and is the first Black Keys album to do so. And while the band gained great commercial success with their previous record, “Turn Blue” is one that will quickly grow on you, especially if you’re into their earlier work and have an appreciation for great guitar playing and deep, emotive song-writing.
Note for Note Blog Album Rating: 5 RockStars
Standout Tracks: “Fever” and “It’s Up To You Now”
“Fever” official music video:
You can also purchase”Turn Blue” on iTunes: