The Black Keys – Turn Blue

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It’s June, and I’ve bought exactly two CD’s this year, both within the last couple of weeks.  That makes for a pretty dreadful year at this pace.   I’m not a Black Keys fan.  I don’t have any of their other songs, though I’ve heard many.  But, their 8th studio release got enough attention amid my despblackkeyseration for something new that I thought I’d give it a try.

It was  a worthwhile decision, though not fully satisfying.  The CD begins with “Weight of Love,” a big, beautiful, building gem of a song, my only quibbles being the Red Hot Chili Peppers style of vocal delivery and the obtuse ending.  Still, it’s a keeper and sets the stage for great a wide variety of things to come.

Next up is “In Time,” changes the vibe to a bright, pop funk that starts well and improves with each listen, just a well crafted song.  The title track is a conundrum, enjoyable certainly, but an unusual song with lyrics that speak to carrying on through lead writer/singer Dan Auerbach’s broken marriage, dressed with groovy electronics and a sunny vocal delivery that belies the content.

“Fever” is the first single from the album, and my least favorite.  Dominating keyboards that remind me of mindless dance music or a carnival don’t become tiring; they’re dreadful from the start.  It seems the band realize that too, because the jettison the noise midway and take the song to a better place.

“Year in Review” is passable album filler, burdened with a female chorus that wasn’t a bad idea, just poorly paired.  This song would have been much better stripped to the bones.

The broken marriage returns with a rock edge in not so subtly titled “Bullet to the Brain,” but the vocal delivery is devoid of emotion.  It sounds good, but there’s no bite where they should be:

Looking back on where we used to be
Everything was clear, still I refuse to see
Hearts began to rust
The diamond turned to dust
And baby took her pain all out on me

“It’s Up to You Now” is capable filler but unlikely to make the transition to a playlist.  “Waiting on Words” is a beautiful song, one with a tune that revisits your head when you’re somewhere else.  There’s a sadness to it, but listening to it, it may be saying goodbye to a friend for a few months rather than something more major which the lyrics suggest.

“10 Lovers” is another song about turning blue, dressed up in a great riff with a great beat, and near its end gets to the point of a divorce’s impact on a daughter:

Don’t leave us not in love again
The little girl can’t comprehend
She had another dream that her mama’s gone
She’s alright, but you’re all wrong

The album closes with “In Our Prime,” a rocker, full of fuzz guitar that recalls Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in a good way.  It’s a fitting musical bookend for the CD, and it comes quite a bit closer to marrying music and lyric. 

Like every lover hovers in my mind
We made our mark when we were in our prime
The house it burned, but nothing there was mine
We had it all when we were in our prime

Only, that isn’t the last song.  “Gotta Get Away” can either be viewed as a catharsis of moving on to future possibilities or as a toss away straightforward rocker that is stylistically a misfit for the whole.  I tend to the latter.

As a whole, I like the CD.  The lyrics are intelligent and efficiently crafted.  The music catches the ear and can make for an at home listen or a happy drive.  It’s only when the two are paired that it seems less than what it should be.  Perhaps that’s why the CD package has a giant blue fold out insert with no lyrics. 

Skip the hurt; enjoy the music.

3 of 5 STARS

 

 

Recommended Songs:

“Weight of Love,” “In Time,” “In Our Prime”

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