It’s been nearly two years since the Black Keys released an album, 2014’s Turn Blue. It was their first album to debut at number one, yet it failed to capture the public’s attention and imagination like their 2011 album, El Camino, did. There wasn’t a “Lonely Boy” or “Gold on the Ceiling” on it. Turn Blue had “Fever,” but it didn’t have the same anthemic impact.
Since then, the band has been relatively quiet. Singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach recorded an album with a new band, the Arcs, while Patrick Carney did…well, other things. He got into a Twitter fight or two (something he has a history of doing) and even possibly a real fight, threw out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game this year and continued to host his own show on satellite radio once a month. Recently, both members of the Black Keys were at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting Steve Miller, walking away from it feeling a little too much like GOB Bluth. It felt like the first time in a long time that the two of them have been seen together and it started to make us think about the group’s future. Uproxx’s John Hugar and Ryan O’Connell elected to suss this one out.
Ryan O’Connell: Hey, John, don’t the Black Keys kind of seem like they’re just a distant memory now?
John Hugar: Kind of. Turn Blue had a few great songs on it, but I haven’t listened to it in about a year. Plus, Auerbach doesn’t seem to really be focused on the band anymore. He’s got the Arcs, and he’s got his producer gig. I don’t know, I suppose this sounds like the typical hipster “abandon a band once they get famous” sh*t, but I can’t help but think the Keys have had their moment. I certainly hope I’m wrong, though.
ROC: The problem with Turn Blue was that it was them getting away from what they do best: tight, blues rock songs. They could come back, but it’ll depend on what the album sounds like. Will the first single have the punch of “Lonely Boy,” the lackluster shove of “Fever,” or will they venture back into swamp rock territory like they did with Brothers, which might be their best album? And yeah, I wonder about Auerbach’s commitment. Dude’s got side hustles now and I wonder if he’s still interested in the Black Keys, especially given the limitations that come with a two man band.
Do you ever wonder what Carney thinks of Auerbach’s producing or his work with the Arcs?
JH: I could totally see Carney being pissed about what Auerbach is doing. And the thing is, I can’t really blame Dan for wanting to get away from him. I don’t know what he’s like in the studio, but man, he’s always starting feuds. One day it’s Nickelback, the next it’s Justin Bieber. I just get the vibe he’s kind of a prick.
One thing I’ll say about Turn Blue — it wasn’t *that* bad. Not great, but I did like some of it. Weirdly enough, I actually thought “Fever” was one of the better tracks. It could have fit on El Camino.