The Black Keys’ ‘Fever’ Not So Hot
Jimmy Kemper | Tuesday, April 1, 2014
No, I’m not talking about the infamous nightclub where your roommates spend their Thursday nights. I’m talking about the new single released by the Black Keys on March 24. “Fever” is the first new release by the band since it won three Grammy Awards for 2011’s “El Camino” and with it comes the announcement of a new album, “Turn Blue,” set to release this May.
“Fever” has come as a shock to a number of fans because of how drastically different it is from previous works by the Black Keys. The days of the raw, grimy blues of “Thickfreakness” and “The Big Come Up” are long gone, replaced with funky synthesizer melodies and bouncing bass beats. Hipsters everywhere are lamenting the switch to such a modern sound, and some with good reason.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I originally heard “Fever,” I was shocked and not too happy. The best word I could find to describe it was “pleasant.” It was just a very middle-of-the-road piece.
But I was frustrated. How could a band that has pumped out successful record after record for over a decade produce something so … mediocre?
After a few more listens, it hit me. Within the overall context of the Black Keys and the direction they have been heading in since 2010’s “Brothers,” “Fever” makes sense. For the past few years, the Black Keys have gradually shifted from the grungy garage blues that built them up to a cleaner, smoother sound with big riffs and an arena rock sound. While I acknowledge this was not what I would have originally hoped for, I think that the Black Keys have successfully moved forward as a band with “Fever.” It isn’t the type of song that will make someone fall in love with the Black Keys, but it’s still a decent quality piece to add to their repertoire.
However, I am not using “Fever” as a barometer though for the rest of the band’s upcoming album, “Turn Blue.” The Black Keys are diligent with their records and have always put their best foot forward. If “Turn Blue” is half as fun as previous album “El Camino” was, then I’m going to be jamming to this countless times over the next year or two.
Those who have voiced complaints about the lack of guitar on “Fever” need not worry: In a very recent interview with Zane Low, guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach said he’s “never done such a long guitar solo” as the one he’s done for a track on “Turn Blue.”
The essential elements of the Black Keys, the funky bass, the rocking guitars and the coolest lyrics to come out of Akron, Ohio, are all still there; they have just been modernized. As awesome as it would seem to have every album these guys push out sounds like “Attack and Release,” a band needs to update and evolve, and the Black Keys are no exception.
The Black Keys definitely know what they are doing, and I have full confidence that “Turn Blue” is going to be a solid jam.