Sometimes bands throw a curve ball after being away for a while, especially after working on different projects. Other times, despite all the evidence to the contrary the band continues along the same trajectory, continuing down the same path they walked when last they communicated with the world. The Kills, and their new album ‘Blood Pressures’, fall in to the latter category.
This might surprise some, considering lead singer Alison Mosshart’s spent the past two years touring and recording with Jack White in the Dead Weather. One would think that the raw, gritty, visceral and gut wrenching performances from that project would’ve bled into this album. But truth be told, it seems like she got out all of her aggression in that project and returns to The Kills more concerned with writing about the intricacy of relationships and crafting songs more melodic than ever before. This is no surprise (though might still be disappointing) to anybody that’s been following the band’s trajectory. ‘Midnight Boom’ was a softer affair than the previous two, while still maintaining the edge of previous albums.
Songs might be titled things like “Nail In My Coffin” and “Damned If She Do,” but make no mistake, this is a kinder, gentler Kills. Fortunately it suits them well. Opener “Future Starts Slow” is catchy and the chorus will probably get stuck in the mind for days. “DNA” has great head-bob inducing groove and “Satellite” could almost be considered a Reggae song. There’s even a bona fide ballad on the album titled “The Last Goodbye,” which is head-scratchingly not the final track, instead number eight out of eleven. It would have been a somber but pleasing closer, but at its current place in the sequence it feels more like an interlude or a random misstep than the fitting end it could be. Despite this, it’s pleasantly surprising how much all of these disparate sounds come together in something different yet ultimately satisfying.
That’s not to say this album’s not without out its misfires. Jamie steps up to the mic for the pointless and grating “Wild Charms.” When echoing Alison and sticking to backing vocals his voice is effective and helps drive home some of her better lines. But when he’s left to carry the weight on his own he seems like a man bereft of both melody and rhythm—a drunk and tone deaf Paul Weller. The other time this album fumbles is in closer “Pots and Pans.” The lyrics are silly and it doesn’t really go anywhere, just hovering in some middling blues stomp nether region between mid and slow tempo until it just peters out.
Fortunately there is some salvation for fans of feisty and gritty Kills of old. As the cryptic title implies, “Nail In My Coffin” finds the band at their dark and delicious best and probably the only thing that would even be remotely at home on a Dead Weather album, though it most closely resembles a track from the ‘No Wow’ sessions. For the biggest bang for your buck, chew on the penultimate track “You Don’t Own The Road.” It’s the closest Alison comes to her indignant Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey howl of old. It’s a fun romp and a perfect song for driving at high speeds—highly recommended for anyone’s next road trip playlist.
‘Blood Pressures’ is the sort of album that gets better with repeated listens, the hooks and slogans repeat and burrow into the listener’s consciousness. Unfortunately, the few glaring problems keep this album from reaching the heights of some of their other material. Had they cut “Wild Charms” and “Pots and Pans” and moved “The Last Goodbye” to last in the track-list this could have been a short and sweet album ala ‘The King of Limbs‘, ultimately giving it more impact. Which is to say they’ve “still got it” in their progression away from gritty beat-driven indie rock and more towards dark but sweetly melodic pop. But no transition is seamless and this leaves them with an album that’s good, but just short of greatness.
Written by Jarad Matula