The answer as to how they know this so well is easy to trace, as a lot has happened in the ten-plus years since Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince first crossed paths during a chance encounter in a London squat. At the time, Mosshart was crashing out on tour in Europe as a member of the Florida pop-punk diehards Discount, and Hince was living upstairs, writing songs alone and still smoldering in the ashes of his own overlooked outfit Scarfo. Flash forward to the April of 2011 and the two will tell you just how much a table can turn.
In a matter of time, the indie art-blues duo went from air-mailing each other tapes across the Atlantic to cutting a record on Sly Stone’s old mixer and touring the world with Franz Ferdinand. Mosshart herself went from dodging White Stripes comparisons in early interviews to fronting the swamp-rock supergroup Dead Weather with Jack White himself. Meanwhile, Hince moved on from mingling at anarcho-punk communes to moving in with fiancé slash supermodel icon Kate Moss. Needless to say, The Kills can attest that the right amount of instant chemistry can carry you a long way.
Where that chemistry carries you is an entirely different question altogether, and it’s one that The Kills have continued to answer emphatically over the course of their career. Their most recent response comes in the form of ‘Blood Pressures‘, their freshly released fourth studio album that, like the trajectory of their individual endeavors, illustrates how far an idea can stretch when given enough leg room.
On first listen, the new record sounds like a common continuation of the first three, with opener ‘Future Starts Slow‘ showcasing that same sexual tension – between Mosshart’s vocal vamp and Hince’s airtight drum-machine backed riffs – that has come to characterize their earlier catalogue. Upon further investigation, the album opens up to reveal a fuller, more fleshed out form of songwriting that has yet to be heard from The Kills so far. If their previous efforts were stripped down, then this one is dressed up. From the layered guitar and intensity increase in the electro-strut of ‘Heart Is a Beating Drum‘, to the careful collection of cool one-liners offered up on ‘Damned If She Do‘, it’s apparent that ‘Blood Pressures’ had Hince and Mosshart creating at a more calculated pace than say, the frantic three-week fury in which the duo wrote 2005’s ‘No Wow‘.
Oddly enough, the tracks that stand out the most this time around are the ones that really shouldn’t work in the first place. Serving as both the initial single and the second song in, the ambitiously arranged ‘Satellite‘ seems set up to fall on its own face. Instead this distorted scuzz-reggae hybrid – with its effect-altered offbeat guitar and a wordless choral melody ripped straight from the Lee Perry-produced Congos track ‘Fisherman‘ – stirs up an unsettling regret that still seeps in after several spins through. Then there is ‘The Last Goodbye‘, a bare bones piano-led torch song that teeters on the edge of sentimental schmaltz, but is kept from going over by the vain yet vulnerable way in which Mosshart lets go of a love that has long since lost its steam.
In any case, ‘Blood Pressures’ serves as a distinct turning point in The Kills’ career, not in terms of mainstream recognition or even enriched musicianship, but more so in solidifying their slot in today’s ever-changing popular culture landscape. Whether they agreed to it or not, Hince and Mosshart were often grouped together with the so-called garage rock revivalists of the early 2000’s. Yet now, with the recent washout of the White Stripes, the steady decline in relevancy that has become The Strokes, plus the long forgotten hype that surrounded bands like The Hives, The Vines, and The Von Bondies, it’s interesting to note that The Kills have still managed to not only carry on, but progress amidst the slow disintegration of their former peers.
Why, or even how, they have survived in the manner in which they have at the moment isn’t altogether clear. Perhaps if we wait one more decade, then it will all make sense.
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