Review Summary: Killin' it.
It’s a tired truism to get back to what’s comfortable when life gets a bit too hectic, but the Kills’ Blood Pressures
is that steadfast example that proves a cliché can still be useful. The duo of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have had enough distractions over the course of the past few years that one could tell it was starting to affect their work – 2008’s Midnight Boom
was certainly enjoyable, but its pop leanings and introduction of synths strayed from what the two did best. Mosshart seemed more focused on her work in the Dead Weather, and Hince was probably a bit preoccupied with fiancée Kate Moss and the tabloid frenzy that accompanies any Moss move. Looking back on it now, it all seems laughable. Blood Pressures
is the band’s most coherent, consistent work to date, an album painted in gritty black-and-white blues and Mosshart’s sexy, venomous vocals.
The Kills have always been steady, a band to count on for a good time when similar bands like the White Stripes or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were surrounding themselves with side projects or sucking, respectively. Blood Pressures
is everything the White Stripes wished they could be after White Blood Cells
– underground blues rock with an effortless edge of cool and an almost oppressively dark atmosphere, largely provided by Mosshart’s soulful vocals. It’s simple, trashy guitars and thudding drums, but it’s also powerful, kicking you with a bludgeoning array of riffs and hooks buried under distorted noise. It’s old school blues, and with a description like that it’s easy to slap a label on them, one that might read “Black Keys with a chick.” That would be doing the band a disservice; Mosshart and Hince would prefer to punch you in the stomach with their suffocating blend of blues than join you in celebrating the old delta.
“Future Starts Slow” lays down the blueprint, thunderous drums and a menacing guitar line underlying Mosshart’s vocals and Hince’s faint harmony, a perfect duet of sorrow: “You can holler, you can wail / you can swing, you can flail / you can *** like a broken sail / but I’ll never give you up.” An amazing thing about the Kills is how two people can create such a racket. The wrenching guitars on “Satellite,” followed by the anthemic chorus of “Heart Is A Beating Drum,” proceeded by the cavernous drums and buzz saw chords on “Nail In My Coffin;” it all makes for a ***kicking storm of bluesy rock, one where Hince’s wisp of a solo, “Wild Charms,” is practically necessary to cut back on the tension.
It’s that first half of the record that establishes the Kills as underrated masters of their genre, but it’s the latter collection of songs that proves there’s still ground to be covered. Drawing equally from Americana roots rock (“You Don’t Own The Road”) and distorted, haunted new wave (“Baby Says”) as easily as they do from blues, Blood Pressures
comes off as a complete record, one that rightfully shouldn’t sound so unique and the sum of its parts as it ends up doing. It even makes a misfire like the melancholic Edith Piaf-esque ballad “The Last Goodbye” a sweet, inconsequential self-indulgence. When the Kills finally get around to the slow burning stomp of “Pots and Pans,” the listener is almost as exhausted as Mosshart and Hince sound, whether it be from exhausted passion or ear drum fatigue. But there’s nothing on Blood Pressures
as invigorating as the last couple minutes, where Hince turns things up in a static-filled roar and Mosshart wistfully finishes “these are the days that we’ll never forget / when the dawn dawns on you.” In retrospect, no other song is better suited to close out a record so mired in familiar tradition and influences, yet one bursting at the seams with its own edgy, smoldering personality. Mosshart and Hince may have a lot more on their plate, but the Kills have never sounded so refreshingly vital.