It has been three years. Three long years of waiting, anticipating, and speculating. While basking in the global success of their latest album El Camino, The Black Keys have not wasted any time. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach has passed the years by exploring his talent in the world of production, working with artists such as The Growlers and Dr. John. He even picked up a Producer of the Year Grammy in 2013. Regardless of success in side-projects, true Keys fans have been anxiously awaiting Auerbach to get back to what he does best, as the band takes their longest break between albums since their debut The Big Come Up in 2002. In my experience, the longer the wait between albums, the more the anticipation builds.
The day “Fever” was released, I had already been counting down to the day I would first hear the debut single of The Black Keys upcoming album Turn Blue. In fact, the first thing I did when I woke up the morning of March 24th was jump for joy when I the track was already available for listen on Spotify. Mentally, I was prepared for heavy bass, awe-inspiring grungy guitar solos, and of course Auerbach’s famous falsetto. These are all of the elements we have come to know and love about their garage-esque sound. However, it only took the opening few bars of “Fever” to indicate that any and all predictions for the highly-anticipated album were all about to be proved wrong.
I understand that all bands need to move forward and allow themselves to evolve as artists. Without this innovation, we’d be listening to repeats of the exact same albums over and over again. Over the years, The Black Keys have indeed become more polished and refined, bringing them up from garage-grunge to arena-caliber performances. However, as much as I want to applaud The Keys for moving in a new direction with their music, “Fever” is proof that a new direction is not necessarily the right direction.
The first bars of the single give a pre-view into the more electronica and psychedelic sound that “Fever” continues to showcase. While this more modern sound is not necessarily my cup of tea, I wanted to give the rest of the track a shot to impress me. Less than a minute into the song, I could already feel my once laser-focused mind drifting further from the funky synth beat and closer to what I would have for lunch that day. All four minutes and six seconds of this track seem to be building towards some climax that never arrives. Instead, you are left with a repetitive chorus with a high-pitched keyboard motif that annoys before the end of the first listen.
During the week since the track has been released, I decided that maybe this new and more modern direction The Black Keys are heading in is just something that will eventually grow on me. An acquired taste if you will. I added “Fever” to my iPod tentatively, in hopes that my musical palate would acquire the new and exotic taste that “Fever” has to offer. Much to my dismay, the taste was never quite right. Each time my iPod would shuffle to the track, I had to resist the urge not to press the skip button. Nowhere in “Fever” does the group showcase the enormous instrumental talent we know they possess.
My hopes for Turn Blue, out May 13th, are not crushed however. In a recent interview, Auerbach confesses that on one of the tracks, he shreds out the longest guitar solo he’s ever had. While “Fever” does have some possibly promising qualities, its new hypnotic feel, I couldn’t help feeling overall disappointment. A week after the track’s release, and I am officially removing it from my iPod. I’ll hold out for the album in hopes “Fever” was an experimental fluke.
Written By: Hanna Sutton