ALBUM: Turn Blue
ARTIST: The Black Keys
Turn Blue, the eighth studio album crafted by The Black Keys, is, unfortunately only my first venture into their discography. Not due to any particular kind of ignorance or unwillingness to give the band a chance - I had heard great things about their prior record (El Camino) - but because of some innate sense of already knowing I was going to enjoy the work of this duo. Call it inane (or insane), but it's held me at bay for this long. Thank god, however, for this site and the opportunity to listen to everything from Mac Miller's psychedelic stoner trip, Faces, to this, charming, romanticized ode to psychedelic rock.
By romanticized, I'm referring to the subtle longing found in Auerbach's, often airy, incessantly inviting, vocals - a longing for change but hesitant in embracing the advice that he himself pens throughout the album. The album opens in reverse, the sprawling ballad "Weight Of Love," simultaneously establishing the premise of being lost in complacency and quickly moving past the more drawn-out rumination. This leaves room for the rest of tracks to maintain a certain pep, a bounce in their rhythmic groove, despite Auerbach's consistent musings. "In Time" is allowed the freedom to be extremely catchy as well as assured in its delivery and the awesome swing of its melody. On the titular track, even as he "remembers the time love would really glow," the melodic sway of the instrumentation picks up the tempo in precise measures. The album is, if anything, deliberate in its infectious stride, with each inflection and warble in the vocals matched with a swooping lull or rising climax.
Even though the haunting "Bullet In the Brain" would be fitting as the makeshift centerpiece of the album, the fact there isn't a clear focus throughout the record is indicative of a more deeply imbedded problem. One of the album's major flaws stems from the writing. Even when many of the tracks work very well on their own, and when placed together, Turn Blue meshes well sonically, the content and the writing often feels inconsequential. Maybe the closer, the clean-cut country/rock number "Gotta Get Away," was meant to be triumphant, especially after the album's never-ending one-off lines of foreboding and forewarning, but you're simply left wondering what was actually accomplished - what lesson was taken away, or what all the half-cocked doom & gloom built up to.
But this album finds a way to takes its rumination and make it catchy, to create an album of entertaining tracks even if the product isn't as cohesive as a whole. A sense of whimsy that's thoroughly embraced is found in almost every track, in some form or another - never allowing a track to get lost in its own daydreaming. When it gets close, like on "Waiting on Words," there are tracks like the sing-song "10 Lovers" (and playful "It's Up To You Now") to surround it on either side. Although it's predicated on suffocating complacency, and an urge to starting freeing yourself, the album is already almost uniformly uninhibited. It never appears to be holding its breath - contrastingly, it's actually pretty self-assured in its mild yet psychedelic groove - but, unfortunately, you're left wondering what could've happened if The Black Keys actually dared to take in one of those big gulps of rigid, fresh, air, and hold it in until they turned blue.
“Will it ever end?”