The Kills | Blood Pressures (Domino)

Mosshart’s stint in The Dead Weather has rubbed off on her songwriting—this is a record bathed in a much darker light than previous Kills albums.

 

 

 

The spring season conjures many images in the mind’s eye: blooming flowers, blue skies, nesting birds, rabbits on the run, and, of course, The Kills.

Ok, so the music of The Kills might bring forth starkly different visuals (cigarettes, booze, trashed hotel rooms, broken guitar strings) than the spring, but the band just released their third LP, Blood Pressures, on April 7th. Spring is a season of reawakening after a long slumber, of new life entering into the world. So does Blood Pressures share in this inventive, enlivening motif or is it simply more of the same?

Caveman-style drums lead us into “Future Starts Now,” the album opener that is distinctly Kills. It’s a catchy tune with a memorable hook (“You can blow what’s left of my right mind”). All of the things we have come to expect from this band are here: the fuzzy, decayed guitars, up-tempo drum machine beats, the dark yet playful lyrics, and the layered vocals of duo Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince.

“Operator, Operator, dial it back. Operator, Operator, don’t take her too,” sings Mosshart on “Satellite,” a big sounding, melodic-yet-noisy number. This is a song that really sums up what The Kills have nailed so well in their music: good, clean studio production that still manages to sound authentic and under-produced.

More distorted, dissonant guitar work greets us on “Heart is a Beating Drum,” while “Nail In My Coffin” infuses a good deal of pop vocal styling into the backdrop of lo-fi drums and guitars reminiscent of Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails. “Wild Charms” takes us back on a minute-long journey to an earlier day with its nostalgic, ‘50s-era instrumentation.

It’s all rock ‘n’ roll on “DNA,” a great whiskey-drinking song with the dark vibe and spiteful lyrics. Things lighten up a little bit with “Baby Says,” a song that is equal parts rock and pop, which The Kills so often balance.

“The Last Goodbye” shifts moods drastically with its piano and strings arrangement; this is a song you that you’d imagine being sung in a lounge while the audience sips gin and tonic, or perhaps a song that scores a scene to a black-and-white film.

“Damned If She Do” has a T-Rex vibe to its main guitar hook that gives way to a moody, repeating chorus, “She comes alive when she’s dying/ She comes alive when she’s on her death bed.” Big doses of rock guitar are the backbone of “You Don’t Own The Road.” Mosshart’s voice shines on the chorus; everything on this record just sounds bigger. Things come to a close with “Pots and Pans,” a track that starts off with a sparse kick drum and acoustic guitar but continues to grow and grow as it crescendos to a noisy peak. A great closer to a fantastic album.

Blood Pressures is a lot more rock than No Wow and Midnight Boom, the band’s earlier efforts. You can tell that Mosshart’s stint in The Dead Weather has rubbed off on her songwriting—this is a record bathed in a much darker light than previous Kills albums. This is precisely what makes Blood Pressures an excellent listen as well as the best Kills record to date.

For anyone who finds attitude and edge missing from much of today’s music, you will find a wealth of it here. Mosshart and Hince are at their sassiest and most unapologetic, and it’s quite becoming for them. This is a refreshing record that is very well rounded and full of interesting elements that will keep you coming back for repeated listens. A | Christopher Sewell

 

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