Four albums deep, The Kills are as confrontational and compelling as ever, in the slow-burning, whiskey-in-the-ashtray sort of manner. And with Blood Pressures, the duo of Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart reach their highest realization of potential yet with a kindled confidence and dedication to songwriting.
Hince wrote most of the Blood Pressures tracks on acoustic guitar, a first in design for The Kills. "I never wrote on an acoustic guitar before," he explained to Spinner. "I bought the guitar about four years ago. I had old, crappy nylon string ones before. But I bought this guitar, fell in love with it and fell in love with playing it as I wrote for the new record. It was really just fun. I'd sit around with friends, drink wine and just keep playing, playing, playing."
The other half of the transatlantic duo, Alison has previously admitted the group's methods for writing songs is unorthodox, with her and Jamie working largely independently of each other. "The way we both write songs is, we're in the same place, but we're both in different rooms where we can't hear each other, writing at the same time," She explains. "Then we meet up and play each other what we're doing, and then there's a response."
The change in approach comes on the heels of Mosshart's two-year affair with The Dead Weather, an experience that yielded great rewards in her development as a performer and musician.
"I really noticed the change in her voice when she came back off tour with The Dead Weather," Hince confides. "It had become so strong. There was more confidence there."
The confidence is most certainly there, and everything that's good about The Kills is ramped up and emphasized here, whether it be Hince's gain-laden post-Stooges guitar tones tguitars or Mosshart's smoky, sultry swagger. The bluesy groove rock is bigger and meaner this time around, taking Midnight Boom's pungent mix of contempt and heartache and amplifying the moodiness of Keep On Your Mean Side.
Mosshart summons the ghost of Patsy Cline for the sultry "The Last Goodbye," while Hince takes a lesson from Keith Richards in "Baby Says," noticeably reworking the serpentine "Gimme Shelter" riff.
“Heart is a Beating Drum” bears a deceptive simplicity, Mosshart alone over beat-and-break rock between fuzz-laden grooves. It's hard not to clap along, before the infectious buzz-blast of “Nail in My Coffin” stomps through, all sexy thrust and ambivalent heart.
The minute-and-change “Wild Charms” follows, as Hince breaks into a soft, decidedly British solo melody. A pleasant respite before the sadistic venereal burn of “DNA,” easily the most anthemic song on any Kills album. Alternately, "Baby Says" serenades in a 60s pop way, full of longing and a shimmering lead riff just delicately pretty enough to encourage a distraction from the churning rhythms.
“The Last Goodbye,” finds a vulnerable Mosshart singing to a piano, a scratch of old vinyl beneath it, a slow torch-song dirge that showcases the subtle uptick in confidence from the songstress. The seething kiss-off of “Pots and Pans” is a snake in the desert grass, a disdainful gravitational melody that mirrors the guitar line with haunting fashion.
The new emphasis on balladry and artful hooks that don't snap to the grid is a delightful turn for The Kills, and Blood Pressures is a perfectly stated collection of tracks out to prove little – but in doing so, proves a great deal about the duo's ability to craft sounds with a knack for enchantment. Stewing tension while bleeding you dry with subversive melodicism has become something of a calling card for The Kills, and they're inching closer to perfecting the balance with each passing release.
CraveOnline's Rating: 8 out of 10