The Black Keys’ 'Turn Blue': What the Critics Are Saying
The garage band progenitors get into some new, fuzz-toned psychedelia on their new album, with mostly positive results.
For The Black Keys’ eighth full-length album, Turn Blue, principals Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have once again turned to producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who has been at the helm for the band’s previous three releases, including their 2011 platinum-plus El Camino.
Apparently, though, that’s where the similarity between the two albums ends, as the new one takes off in unexpectedly dark, psychedelic directions, as opposed to its hook-laden predecessor, starting with the Farfisa beat of its first single, “Fever,” which has already hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart.
Billboard’s Mac Randall acknowledged that the “prevailing atmosphere of True Blue is downbeat and spooky,” though he says “this is a brave, varied and engaging collection of songs … There is something to be said for stylistic diversity and The Black Keys say it well.”
In a four-and-a-half star review, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke calls the album, “a return to basics: a heavy blues … a giant step into the best, most consistently gripping album the Keys have ever made.”
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Kyle Anderson’s B+ review for Entertainment Weekly says Turn Blue “sounds more like an extension of Burton’s Broken Bells side project,” calling it “meticulously executed but slightly (and sleepily) monochromatic.”
“It’s a dusty, slow and heavy work,” says N.Y. Daily News pop critic Jim Farber, claiming the “new sound has some of the atmosphere of a soundtrack, especially from Italian cinema of the 1960s,” a period that producer Burton particularly favors, concluding “Turn Blue may not rock as resoundingly as past works, but the added soul in Auerbach’s vocals, and the extra beauty of the tunes, give the album a slow-burn warmth.”
The N.Y. Times’ Nate Chinen says the album “offers proof that the band has acclimated to its stature: It’s surer and more satisfying than either of [its] previous albums, and seems less labored," adding, "Turn Blue is as invested in an air of uneasy psychedelia as is the current season of Mad Men.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the L.A. Times’ Mikael Wood called the album "low-key but also low energy ... disappointing, but also slyly hopeful, as though the band were already planning how to reach another peak.” He added its performance of “Fever” on Saturday Night Live “seemed even more listless, a candy-colored muscle car reduced to lazy Sunday-drive mode.”