It’s been a slow and steady ascent to the top for Ohio duo The Black Keys since the release of debut ‘The Big Come Up’ twelve (twelve!) years ago. But if there was any doubt that Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach are a legit big deal now, then the feverish excitement that’s greeted the announcement of forthcoming eighth LP ‘Turn Blue’ will knock that on the head quicker than you can say “don’t mention The White Stripes”.
‘Fever’ is the first cut to emerge from the record (due May 13) and, impressively, it’s a sign that the pair haven’t been content to rest on their laurels and pander to an easy-option ‘El Camino II’. Sure, there are still a host of recognizable Black Keys tropes: basslines swagger with hip-swiveling sex appeal; Auerbach’s vocal veers between a smooth, bluesy caress and the occasional, effortless high note, while the overall mood of the track – from its female-fixated lyrics to its general strut – is that of a late night whisky bar (albeit a reasonably unthreatening one). But there are obvious flourishes that show the Keys aren’t simply playing it safe.
There are prominent synth lines in the place where you’d normally expect a fuzzed up guitar, while Carney’s purposefully-clipped drum beats sound almost programmed. Rather than overdo the unabashedly lustful lyrics, it serves to maintain a tantalizingly icy distance. And then, what’s that? Oh, why it’s a string section. Just to show that Dan and Pat may be gritty bluesmen at heart, but they aren’t afraid to try some different accessories on for size when need be.
If this is a taste of what’s to come, then The Black Keys’ stratospheric rise should continue on just fine.