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The Black Keys describe Turn Blue as “heavy and dark”, a reaction to singer Dan Auerbach’s recent divorce. It’s also meant to show that there’s more to the Ohio-formed blues-rock throwbacks than arenas and car advert soundtracks, the lucrative situation in which they’ve found themselves since 2010’s breakthrough album Brothers.
Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, joined by regular producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, go about the task with customary proficiency, laying down a subdued groove over which Auerbach yelps about a perverse desire to love “the ones that hurt you”. But there’s nothing conflicted about the music, which chugs along in tidy approximation of brooding psychedelia, distorted guitar solos channelling Jimi Hendrix’s legacy but not his volatility.
Chunky riffs and organ evoke the warmth of analogue recording, yet the effect is strangely synthetic: there’s no real sense of feeling in the songs, a failing summed up by Auerbach’s mannered vocals. Turn Blue isn’t so much heavy and dark as drowsy and predictable.
The Black Keys