The Black Keys Superbly Tackle Divorce On Superb ‘Turn Blue’
The Black Keys channel devastating divorce on latest LP Turn Blue
Divorce typically carries a negative connotation; it’s a heart-wrenching experience for both parties involved. Turning the horrid experience that is a divorce into an album certainly can be as therapeutic as a diary – it’s a way to release the pain. Indie-rockers The Black Keys channel the topic of love gone wrong via divorce on their latest LP, Turn Blue, the follow-up to 2011 hit LP El Camino.
Turn Blue is different from El Camino, possessing a darker, pessimistic vibe. Genuinely upbeat, up-tempo tracks like “Howling For You” and “Lonely Boy” are hard to find without ‘strings attached’. The contrast of this Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) assisted effort is interesting.
“The Weight of Love”
The Black Keys open up Turn Blue ambitiously with the seven-minute juggernaut “Weight Of Love”. A pro about the length and track itself is that it feels as if The Black Keys have ample time to truly express themselves and convey their messaging. This record doesn’t feel rushed. Too often, the focus is on making a record for radio.
Dan Auerbach’s vocals don’t enter until after the two-minute mark, once things have been properly set up musically. “Weight Of Love” truly is heavy, whether it’s the pounding drums, the yearning, wailing electric guitar, or Auerbach’s soulful vocals.
“You’ll be on my mind / don’t give yourself away / to the weight of love…”
Heavy stuff Dan – heavy stuff. And so it begins.
“In Time” is a bit more standard in both length and conception. The relaxed neutral syllabic vocals during the instrumental introduction are a nice, soft touch compared to the overt, driving groove. The use of piano also is a lighter sound, contrasting the syncopated rhythm of the pounding drums and the in-your-face guitars.
“In Time” definitely sounds like it could’ve appeared on a soul record, given its rhythmic nature and Auerbach’s falsetto. That said, there are definite contrasts compared to the Key’s previous work. The production is definitely nebulous, but that also suits the vibe of the album.
“When the music is done and all the lights are low / I would remember the times where love would really glow,” Auerbach sings on the second verse of groovy title track “Turn Blue”. He finishes the verse stating:
“Like a dream I had before my world turned blue / when the light inside would only shine for you.”
“Turn Blue” could have any number of meanings – the duo themselves offered several options to choose from – but what sticks the most is losing love. That means the “turning blue” is more figurative and emotional as opposed to literal. Regardless of the interpretation, the listener makes, “Turn Blue” is easily a top-echelon cut – definitely a standout.
After the moody “Turn Blue”, the only shade of optimism that “Fever” offers comes musically via the acceleration of the tempo. Still set in a minor key, the “fever” of which Auerbach speaks is potentially ‘deadly’, at least figuratively speaking:
“Fever cause I’m breaking / fever got me aching / fever why don’t you explain? / Break it down again / Fever got me guilty / just go ahead and kill me…”
If you didn’t gather the reference to a relationship from the onset, it is later confirmed poetically: “Now if the cold, pale, light in your eyes / reaches those horizon lines / you know not to leave her…” Obviously love can be a five-letter word, but “Fever” is a different five-letter word – GREAT. By the way, the lushness of that last chord – awe-inspiring (and purposely not in tune for effect)!
On “Year in Review”, the distortion and harshness of Auerbach’s vocals is a nice touch, truly adding another level of ‘grit’. The chorus keeps things simple and definitely provides a life lesson more people could stand to adhere to: “Just leave it alone”.
The context is rather than asking more hurtful questions or dwelling in a ‘bed of pain’, you should leave things as they are. Lines like “You can never find a soul that’s got no pain within / just like you’ll never find a singer without that sin…” confirm the perceived nonchalance that Auerbach has regarding BS.
“Bullet in the Brain”
“Bullet in the Brain” is a truly a hard track to listen to, given its realistic nature and description of a marriage going south. “Bullet in the brain,” Auerbach sings on the chorus.
“I prefer than to remain the same.”
Literally or figuratively, this seems to be a suicidal reference to ending life as opposed to staying in the marriage.
Honestly, there is nothing triumphant to be found here – everything is damaged, dark, and destroyed. Lyrics like “Hearts began to rust / the diamond turned to dust” and “I let you use my gifts / to back your lying lips / I’ll never know just what I did it for” confirm how bad things got.