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The Black Keys’ eighth album lacks the duo’s usual spark

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Annie Zaleski

Two stars

The Black Keys Turn Blue

Although they’re one of the biggest rock bands of the past decade, The Black Keys have never seemed entirely comfortable with their star status. Vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are still unassuming guys who’d rather focus on making music than pandering to the gods of pop culture. (The notable exception being Carney’s ongoing beef with Justin Bieber, which has produced some highly amusing Twitter content and plenty of TMZ fodder.)

The Black Keys have also maintained that head-down attitude when approaching their career. They’ve never actively courted the mainstream; it’s almost a fluke that their lo-fi, gutbucket garage-blues has connected with such huge audiences, and led to more nuanced efforts influenced by classic rock and soul. The band’s eighth studio album, Turn Blue, certainly falls into the latter category. Producer Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells project seems to seep into the record, especially on the sleepy electronic undercurrents of “Weight of Love” and the sinister disco noir of “Year in Review,” along with occasional moments of levity, such as the tinny ’60s go-go goof “Fever.”

Yet Turn Blue is most notably a faithful homage to watery psychedelia and heavy ’70s classic rock. Its interminable grooves and zoned-out speeds resemble a record commonly found blaring from the stereo amid thick clouds of pot smoke, absent the spring-loaded energy and crisp songwriting that marked previous Black Keys records. Turn Blue feels more like career sabotage than an adventurous detour.

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