Like corporate drones determined to cut loose every third Friday whether they need to or not, the Black Keys take the time to schedule semi-regular journeys into the unknown. Turn Blue, the 2014 successor to their down-and-dirty international blockbuster El Camino, is one of those trips, a churning psychedelic excursion that slowly pulses in any color you like. Those colors spread out slow and low as Turn Blue gets underway via "Weight of Love," sounding not at all unlike Pink Floyd's "Breathe in the Air," a deliberate comparison the Keys return to often throughout the album, letting it decorate fleeting moments and infuse full songs ("Bullet in the Brain," the first single pulled from the LP, hits many of the same notes). Floyd looked to space but, like the Ohio natives that they are, the Black Keys' concerns are earthbound. Dan Auerbach primarily sings songs about love lost and won, sprinkling in a little bit of lust along the way, and he and Patrick Carney certainly share a love of soul and groove, something that's rarely heard in music as trippy as this. Time and time again throughout Turn Blue, the Black Keys and Danger Mouse turn toward those rhythms without abandoning the psychedelic swirl that gives the album its distinctive flavor. Unlike 2008's Attack & Release -- the last time the Black Keys decided to get out, way out (and not coincidentally their first collaboration with Danger Mouse) -- this has momentum, a drive provided by those heavy rhythms (they escalate so much, "10 Lovers" flirts with glitter-ball disco) and sheets of outsized fuzz guitars that cut through the haze. Songs stretch out longer here than they have on any previous Black Keys LP, but this doesn't feel indulgent due to the precision of the production; things may seem to drift but every bit of fuzz and echo is in its right place. Initially, this immaculately shaded production draws attention to itself but, in time, Turn Blue reveals that underneath its surface flash it's a quietly adventurous and substantive record. The Black Keys retain their fascination with southern soul of the late '60s -- the title track is coolly insinuating, "Fever" stomps and shakes -- but where El Camino pushed these retro-fantasies to the center, they're merely the bones of this record, the solid structure upon which the band and Danger Mouse choose to expand. Although the closing "Gotta Get Away"-- its title borrowed from both the Rolling Stones and the Impressions but the song sounds like neither group -- illustrates how good the duo is when they keep things grounded in the garage, the rest of Turn Blue impresses because it does what all great bands should do: it captures a band stretching while always sounding like themselves.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine