A lean groove, a crinkly throwback riff, a pained falsetto. Yes, the Black Keys are back — with a song that thrums with pent-up passion and swirling darkness, with something finally worth celebrating. “Fever” is the sound of a churning, unrequited love, and the sound a band that’s completely returned to form.
It wasn’t just that 2011’s cock-rocky El Camino lacked the emotional complexity of their breakout 2010 soul-man smash Brothers. After all, turning up the Black Keys has been just as big a part of their history as turning on. But by stripping everything away, save for this nervy garage-rock brio, they ended up producing an album that didn’t age as well. A storm of visceral power, El Camino was gone and forgotten just as quickly.
With “Fever,” the advance track from the Black Keys’ forthcoming release True Blue, you hear the return of both the blues-based feel that had dominated their more recent work, but — and here’s the rub — the R&B influences too. As Patrick Carney provides a relentless heartbeat, Dan Auerbach couldn’t sound more present, more gut-wrenched, more like everything you ever loved from Brothers, right up until the point where he helplessly wails: “Just go ahead and kill me.”
It sounds like True Blue, due May 13, 2014, isn’t going to be interested as much in setting a new standard, as recalling one the Black Keys already set. “Fever” is available for preorder now through the Black Keys’ website.