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Music Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Alternative, Rock
Performance
Debuted at No. 1.
Record Label
Nonesuch
RELEASED
May 13, 2014
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
The Black Keys

The Black Keys

Turn Blue

A good woman is hard to find. Not-so-good women? Much more common, it would seem. And, indeed, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney—otherwise known as The Black Keys—have no problem finding them … then being wounded by them when said not-so-good women inevitably abandon our perpetually lovelorn protagonists.

In other words, not much has changed since last we heard from The Black Keys on the breakthrough album El Camino in 2011. The band's feverish, fuzz-meets-falsetto, '70s-esque groove is also still solidly soldered in place on Turn Blue, in the service of songs that are paradoxically sadder and more optimistic.

Pro-Social Content

"In Time" acknowledges the emotional bondage that comes from making bad decisions ("The street is beating you bad/ … Nowhere to run/I told you to get, but you were having your fun/Now you're under the gun"), then, despite lot of anxiety and fear, imagines better days ahead for a man whose significant other has strayed ("We let this beat us down/I'll get up off the ground/One day, I know"). "Weight of Love" returns to the idea of chickens coming home to roost for a manipulative woman who always had to have things on her own terms ("Now nobody want to protect ya").

Similar stuff simmers on the title track as a man recalls a lost love but determines to soldier on ("I still carry the weight like I've always done before /It gets so heavy at times, but what more can I do?/I got to stay on track just like Pops told me to"). He warns someone (perhaps his ex) of the possibility of superheated consequences for her way of life ("I really don't think you know/there could be hell below, below/I really do you hope you know/There could be hell below, below").

"Fever" seems to be a cautionary tale about a man realizing that passionate feelings aroused in romance aren't always all they're cracked up to be ("Fever, can you hear me?/You shook me like I've never been/Now show me how to live again/You used to be a blessing/But fever's got me stressing/Realize I have been played/But fever let me play the game.") "Year in Review," meanwhile, pleads with someone not to plunge into yet another abusive relationship ("Why you always wanna love the ones who hurt you/Then break down when they go and desert you?/ … You've been down this road before/So leave it alone"). This track also spiritualizes, "You can never find a soul that's got no pain within/Just like you'll never find a singer without that sin, no sin."

"Waiting on Words" is heartbreakingly vulnerable: "Good-bye/Don't know where you're going/The only thing I really know/My love for you is real." And "In Our Prime" longs to exchange pain for joy with, "I'm praying for some laughter, maybe joy forever after till I die/ … I'm hungry for a change, I got my fill of others' pain."

Objectionable Content

"Gotta Get Away" trades hope of lasting love for cheap hookups ("I searched far and wide, hopin' I was wrong/But, baby, all the good women are gone/ … Blacktop/I can't stop/For no one/It's no fun, fun, fun/With a one-track mind/If you don't get lucky sometime/But I'm still tryin'"). "It's Up to You Now" finds a weary suitor giving the wayward, cigarette-smoking object of his affection permission to follow her wild inclinations ("You wanted to run, but you didn't know how/That's OK, it's up to you now/ … Let you go so you could/Go to town").

The suggestively titled "10 Lovers" uses that phrase to articulate how much a breakup hurts ("When I hear them use your name/I get all choked up inside/It's not only from the shame/It's like 10 different lovers died"). Speaking of lovers, "In Our Prime" recalls some from the past ("Like every lover hovers in my mind") and uses the word "bulls‑‑‑," the album's sole vulgarity.

"Fever" acquiesces, "Fever got me guilty/Just go ahead and kill me." More metaphorically violent suggestions fill "Bullet in the Brain"—which is what a man says he'd rather have than stay in a relationship that is now "like a diamond turned to dust."

Summary Advisory

When all the love has been drained from the atmosphere, the only thing left to do is Turn Blue. That's pretty much the whole story here.

This is an achingly melancholy album about unrequited love. It certainly has positive moments: determination to hold out for the real thing and trying to help others from making foolish, avoidable mistakes. True love has to be out there somewhere, we're told, even if Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney can't actually find it for themselves.

Of course that failure leads to a lot of searing pain. And, at times, that pain spirals down into darker musings.

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