The Black Keys - 2014
I’m going to try something new for this review. I haven’t heard “Turn Blue” yet, but I’ll listen to it right now as I write this and review it as I go. (I did hear some snips of the album on NPR, but no complete songs) I’m on the train, so let’s see if we can complete this review before I get home. Here goes…..
While we get going….a little background on the Keys vs. T. Tambe. I liked Attack And Release a lot, I loved Brothers, and didn’t care for El Camino. (Maybe if they put a picture of an actual El Camino on the cover instead of that van it would have been better?) I don’t listen to them much, but I like them enough.
This album is supposedly more psychedelic and the opener “Weight Of Love” is sure fitting that billing. There’s a noodling guitar solo at the head and again halfway through. The vibe is trippy, with the echo/reverb guitar sounds. They definitely are going for a different vibe with their songwriting here. This track isn't as blues based as their previous stuff. Dan Auerbach is a mediocre soloist, so this track is a bit meandering. Interesting move to put the longest track of the album (6:50) as the opener. Makes a statement.
On to track two… “In Time” is track two. This chorus has a mid-tempo/hand clap thing going on. I can see hippies dancing to this. Both of these first two songs had bigger choruses than I’m used to hearing from the Black Keys. Brian Burton produced this album, (as he has before), so I’m guessing this was a bit of his doing.
“Turn Blue” is track 3. It’s a ballad, again with a 70’s feel. It’s pretty boring overall. Not much more to say about this one.
“Fever” is up next. More of an uptempo stomper. 4 to the floor beat, which never gets old. About 2 1/2 minutes in there’s a breakdown and the mood changes, which kind of kills the flow. Not much of a chorus.
“Year In Review” has a good groove. This sounds more like the Black Keys. Theres some female backup singers featured here that have been on a few tracks already. It’s not a great track, but at least it’s capturing the energy that I’d expect from the Keys.
“Bullet In The Brain” opens with slow tempo acoustic guitars, but wakes up about 1:00 in, as if the guys were given a jolt of caffeine. Another weak song. Not sure what this is about, but I don’t care too much, so that’s ok.
“It’s Up To You Now” - Ok! you’ve got my attention with the drum groove and fuzz guitar. Not really going anywhere, then it shifts to a half time feel at around 1:30. More guitar solos. Can I fast forward? No, no I shouldn’t. This is a review. Gotta give it the full shot. at around 2:30 it picks up again for about 16 bars, then it’s over.
“Waiting On Words” is the track I’ve been most interested in. Dan sings in a falsetto tone that I’ve never heard from him. It’s really interesting to hear this from him. Didn’t know it was in there. There’s jangly guitar chords backing his vocals. The hi hat is on the offbeat in the second verse almost like a reggae song. The doubled vocal track during the chorus is either a female singer doubling him way up the octave, or they used a pitch shifter to allow him to double his own vocals. It’s definitely my favorite track on the album so far. I’d like to hear more of this in the future.
“10 Lovers” - Very 70’s back beat into another sing-song chorus. Brian went all disco on the latest Broken Bells record, so it seems like he was still in that zone when he was working on this one. That’s not a bad thing, but I wish the songs were stronger. My stop is coming up in ten minutes, so this will be close…..
“In Our Prime” is next. Piano opening into guitar/drums. I like the vocal melody. For no reason it stops and shifts feel completely all of a sudden. Why? Lost me there. This part could be a new song. It was pretty good where they were going before.
Ok, so I didn’t get it all done before my stop, so it’s the next day. Overall this was a big disappointment. They went for a different sound, which I always commend a band for, but it didn’t work, mainly because the songs just aren’t great. “Waiting On Words” is definitely the best track here. They do that whole go-into-the-studio-without-anything-prepared thing. Maybe they should do some songwriting ahead of time for the next album.Tambe Back