April 5, 2011
After a brief hiatus that saw front woman Alison Mosshart also known by her stage name, “VV”, joining up with Jack White and others to form “The Dead Weather,” who released two successful albums in a two year span, “The Kills,” which consists of Mosshart on vocals and guitar along with the UK’s Jamie Hince on guitar, vocals, percussion and mellotron have reunited, recorded, and released their fourth studio album titled “Blood Pressures.”
The first three Kills albums were met with critical and commercial success respectfully, more so in the UK than the US, but their previous effort “Midnight Boom” received substantial airplay and had songs featured on various TV programs and Movies. Known for their oozing sex appeal and stripped down garage rock riffs, The Kills have been banging out head nodding grooves for nearly a decade. Constantly swirling rumors about the duets “relationship” became part of the curiosity, and whether invented by fans, or actually true, the sexual tension is hard to deny when listening to their album or seeing them live, staring into each other while playing. Headed by Mosshart’s sometimes silky, sometimes growling, yet always powerful voice and Hince’s ability to utilize different types of instruments while adding the programmed percussion has made The Kills somewhat of a spliced up bizarro version of “The White Stripes.”
Although “Midnight Boom” embraced somewhat more of a post-punk sound than a straight guitar driven rock record, the Kills have turned out another hypnotic groove driven record peppered with heartfelt lyrics and a mature vulnerability that may have to do with time passed and emotional high’s and low’s. Blood Pressures has a unique way of seeming heavy, but hitting lightly over the head with its blues driven riffs and lulling the listening into a groove coma. (Seriously, play the song Satellite in your car on a clear warm night while driving on the highway and you’ll understand what I mean by groove coma).
The opening track “Future starts slow” starts with a steady drum beat allowing Hince to chime in with a ticking sort of riff that drives the song nicely along. With Mosshart’s wail standing out and Hince adding depth to the vocals; both sync up throughout the song to provide a nice cruising yet rock driven track to start out the album. The first thing I noticed about the music is how magnetic the fuzz sound is to the listener. It’s not over powering heavy, but sludgy enough to make your head dip down a little and start to nod at the incessant groove reverbing around your mind.
The second song and first single off the album “Satellite” will be familiar territory for Kills fans. A slow droning machine-ish intro, like heavy construction equipment starting up on a cold morning. The slow chugging riff blasts through the speakers with an added depth not heard on similar songs from other albums. Again Mosshart’s chain-smoking sensual growl crawls through the speakers with erratic urgency.
Since I was young and first realized that the music I like may not be the music the people around me like, and of course reading countless books on Led Zeppelin and other close to God Rock and Roll outfits, I came to the conclusion that I hate the idea of singles. If I were in a band I would put out the track I liked least as a single. This transformed into me, when I had an album I really cherished, and after I found my favorite songs I would pray and perform rituals that my favorite songs would not become singles. So it was to my disappointment when I heard that Satellite was the first single released off the album.
I get it; I understand it’s a business and its part of a possession issue on us, the listeners. We like something, a sound, or a song. One melody, riff or note even. We associate a good feeling or memory to it, or maybe it just hits our ears, travels through our body and touches our soul at a place rarely visited. We want to keep that sound. We think it is ours. If it gets out and everybody hears it, the memory or unique feeling is somewhat diminished by quantity. Which is also why, I think, everyone has this fascination with finding or hearing something first, before someone else fills their soul with something that is ours. I digress, in short - I really, really like Satellite, and I am sad it is a single.
After waking up from a zombie like state where my neck hurt from nodding to the groove because I realized I had Satellite on repeat, “Heart is Beating drum” shows off a more expansive form of The Kills. Utilizing a more complex drum beat and added clapping in the background this is a song that will not only make your head nod but actually get you off the couch and moving the rest of your body. Hince’s looping riff and Mosshart’s soulful voice add up to yet another groove filled yet smooth track.
“Nail in my Coffin” features a slightly more pulled back sound, letting the drums and Mosshart’s Oh’ing do most of the work. I tried to get past it but I find the chorus “Quit being a nail in my coffin and I don’t need another one. Quit being a nail in my coffin and lord knows I ain’t ready yet” just a little awkward. That and the fact that the main chorus counts for 70 percent of the lyrics. Still it’s a fun little song that Kills purists will eat up. Personally if I tried to explain or debate my point with Mosshart (not just about this song but with music or anything else in general) I feel I wouldn’t be able to make a point. All it would take to disarm me is a shimmy of the hips and glance of her eye from beneath a seriously built for Rock n Roll hairstyle - I’d be puddy.
“Wild Charms” sets up as a nice little interlude by Hince before the low rumble of “DNA” begins. Another example of the slow grooving rock that the Kills have made a living off of. Blood Pressures as a whole seem to have allowed The Kills to expand their style and sound a bit more than on previous efforts. I would venture to guess that maybe, I could be wrong, but maybe The Dead Weather had an influence on Mosshart. I know Hince is primarily in charge of musical arrangements so it’s purely speculation, but I can sometimes here the Dead Weather in some songs, particularly “DNA.” The chorus is rather enjoyable - as the guitar rumble builds Mosshart and backup singers hold the “But we…”” and then charge into “Will not be moved by moved by it.”
“Baby Says”, the next track on Blood Pressures, begins with a steady percussion and minimalist guitar picking with a phalange or reverb running through it giving an echoed sustain which Hince uses to his advantage, keeping the guitar melodies simple yet getting a lot out of the sound. Mosshart’s voice scorches the track with sincerity, her soft heartfelt wail backed by Hince’s low croon harmonizes to support each other and even further depth to the track. “The last Goodbye” features a stripped down Kills with Hince on piano and Mosshart showing the range and expanse of her voice can travel beyond the smoky low howl that Kills and Dead Weather fans have come to know. Given her propensity to chain smoking and in hearing once that during a show she took three water bottles on stage and chain-smoked from the first song all through the whole set I am continually surprised how pristine and smooth her voice can be when she wants it to. This track may not be for those fans relying on the hypnotic groove riffs or spliced percussion and fuzz pop that the kills are known for, but I for one appreciate a slightly new direction and again Mosshart’s bluesy croon about love lost and last goodbyes.
“Damned if she do” might be the second catchiest song next to satellite on the album. With a classic rock sounding rumbled guitar intro straight from the 1976 Dazed and Confused era, Mosshart and Hince, perfectly complementing each other’s voice begin about a girl’s story of the ups and downs of falling in and out of love. What makes this song is the chorus. The guitars are ratcheted up a notch and the percussion, robotically (literally), steady as ever build up for Mosshart, backed by Hince to belt out “She come alive when she dyin, she come alive when she’s on her deathbed.”
“You don’t own the road” and “Pots and Pans”, the last two songs, complement each other nicely. You don’t own the road”, a more traveling pop sounding effort (for this album anyway), still holds that anxiety and sexual tones so familiar for the duet. Throughout their careers together Hince and Mosshart were always rumored to be supposedly more than “band mates.” Never confirmed or denied enough for public satisfaction, it would seem at this point, with Hince engaged to super model Kate Moss and Mosshart flitting in to Jack White’s fold as the sexy, hair in the face, fear of sunlight, (literally Mosshart has claimed a fear of sunlight, and she’s originally from Florida? Rock musicians… what can you say?) Front woman - it would seem the sexual tension (for fans anyway) has come to rest for now. Still the kills provide the same formula that has worked before, but with a maturity and depth that was maybe lacking consistency at times on their previous efforts. Fans of the more pop layden songs by the Kills might be disappointed with this album. Most will welcome this with open arms into their late night Jack Daniels drinking listening sessions.
The Kills are currently touring to support their album and have been known for their blistering and intimate live shows. It is amazing what two musicians have been able to do with a drum machine and various sounds, expanding on their catalog of sound for nearly a decade and still managing to engage the listener in dirty, yet inviting sound that will insist on your head nodding. Upcoming shows in Southern California include Friday May 13th at the Musicbox in Hollywood and Saturday the 14th in Pomona. OnlineRock.com will be attending the Hollywood show and will have a live review posted shortly after.
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Reviewer Bio - Tim Rosini is part of the editorial team at Onlinerock team. Having a background in English literature with a concentration in creative writing, Tim found himself working for various magazines and websites after moving out to the west coast last summer. Having the ability to adapt his focus from business writing to creative fiction he has found a great place to exercise his passion for music on the onlinerock website.