Review Summary: As foreshadowed by the album's cover, "Blood Pressures" emits a very black-and-white feel; it lacks overall diversity, but various shades and tones do exist.
"Blood Pressures" is the fourth Kills album, and it is most evidently similar to the band's first 2 albums, rather than a progression from their third. In sharp contrast, 2008's "Midnight Boom" bordered on being an indie-pop album, with shorter and catchier songs than ever before. It was a turn from the lo-fi, distorted blues rock The Kills first conjured up in the first half of the 2000s. Yet, despite the production change, these earlier albums have amassed arguably much more praise. Now, with the subsequent release of "Blood Pressures", The Kills can be portrayed as returning to their coveted roots.
The production on this album is 'dark' and mostly effective. The Kills have historically always done their own production for their albums, and the growth of their skills is on premier display. The multi-tracked guitars reach their goals of sounding heavy, and thus, the lack of a bass in their sound is made up for. The vocals are excessively reverb-y, and this unfortunately diminishes the band's desired effect on several tracks. Guitarist Jamie Hince builds most of his riffs around typical blues scales, and implements a variety of effects pedals. His approach to songwriting is identifiable as being simple, coinciding with the band value of minimalism.
On the subject of lyrics, there are obvious critical flaws. Alison Mosshart's often repetitive usage of repeated words over the course of a stanza of a verse grow more annoying by the listen. For example, in "The Heart Is A Beating Drum":
"Looking in the mirror
Look of wild living,
Bound to crack"
Perhaps it would be more easily forgiven if Mosshart didn't write her lyrics like this on EVERY SONG, but apparently that is too much to ask. This style is ever present on the majority of the tracks here, and whether you're a fan is entirely up to personal preference. However, one of my favorite tracks on this album, "Baby Says" features the repeated phrase of:
"Baby says she's dying to meet you"
and for the first time on the album, I actually felt as if it works. This song also includes great visual imagery, and gives off the impression that effort was finally put into these lyrics, for real. "DNA" and "Satellite" are the two singles of the album, and i view them as thoroughly and completely 'decent'. Unfortunately the two songs seem to ostensibly exhibit slightly-more-than similar elements. They both demonstrate a mundane refrain of "oh"'s and "ah"'s, including a gospel choir as background singers. The tracks are alright, but they lack any sort of replay value, and quickly get old after just a few listens.
In case you didn't know anything about this band, or have never heard them before, you should be aware that in place of a human drummer, The Kills equip the talent of a drum machine to serve as their time-keeper. While it is not easily detectable on early listens, or by those unfamiliar with the band, the drum machine becomes more and more sterile sounding on repeat listens. I consider this a con, as it contradicts the supposed ideals of The Kills "live-in-studio sound".
Furthermore, a likely influence on "Blood Pressures" is Alison Mosshart's 2 years and 2 studio album stint with The Dead Weather, a notable blues-rock band with drummer and prominent music figure Jack White. Mosshart's work in this band was heavier than anything she had done with The Kills previously, and the blues-rock influence on her likely reached its peak during these times.
Yet, even with the enhanced blues sound on "Blood Pressures", the catchiness of Midnight Boom is never completely lost. There are moments on this album where it seems as if The Kills are attempting to be catchy and appear to a wider audience than to flaunt songwriting skills and earn more of a 'deeper' fanbase. With the songs "Damned If She Do" and "Nail In My Coffin", Alison Mosshart repeats the title to an incessant degree. It's like The Kills decided that dumbing themselves down and being more repetitive would upgrade their reach. To this effect, i view these two tracks as the album's major missteps.
Overall, "Blood Pressures" IS fun. It's simple, concise, well-produced, yet falls short of becoming endearing. The first few listens of this are guaranteed to be worthwhile, if you know what to expect. It doesn't reach the aim or intensity of the band's own "Keep On Your Mean Side" or "No Wow", but i much prefer it to "Midnight Boom".
Best Songs: "Baby Says", "Wild Charms" and "Pots And Pans"
Worst Songs: "Damned If She Do" and "Nail In My Coffin"