|Ash And Ice (June 3, 2016)|
The Kills — Ash And Ice (June 3, 2016)
♦ The Kills are an indie rock band formed by American singer Alison Mosshart and British guitarist Jamie Hince. © Credit: KennethCapello
Location: Nashville, TN
Genre: Garage Rock, Indie Rock
Album release: June 3, 2016
Studio: Rented house, Los Angeles Electric Lady Studios, New York City
Record Label: Domino Records
01. Doing It To Death 4:08
02. Heart Of A Dog 3:47
03. Hard Habit To Break 3:53
04. Bitter Fruit 4:15
05. Days Of Why And How 4:32
06. Let It Drop 3:15
07. Hum For Your Buzz 3:18
08. Siberian Nights 4:53
09. That Love 2:34
10. Impossible Tracks 3:41
11. Black Tar 3:52
12. Echo Home 5:07
13. Whirling Eye 3:34
♠ Alison “VV” Mosshart — vocals
♠ Jamie “Hotel” Hince — vocals, production
♠ John O’Mahoney — co–production
♠ Tom Elmhirst
♠ Tchad Blake
♦ Over their almost decade–and–a–half career, The Kills have released four records. Each one a restless, reckless enigmatic art statement that bristled with tension, anxiety, sex, unstudied cool and winking ennui, yet not one of them sounded like the previous one. Ash & Ice is the follow up to 2011’s critically lauded Blood Pressures and was five years in the making in part due to Jamie Hince’s five hand surgeries, which resulted in him having to re–learn how to play guitar with a permanently damaged finger. It was during Hince’s recuperation from surgery that he first started sketching out what would become the songs for the album. To shake up the writing process, Hince booked a solo trip on the infamous Trans–Siberian Express for inspiration while Alison Mosshart, now residing in Nashville, TN, wrote some of the most affecting, poetically candid lyrics that she ever has, painting word pictures that mine the dangerous terrain between romantic obsession, prophecy and tough love. Where previous albums had an air of detachment and emotional austerity, underpinned by an uneasy self–awareness and unexpressed anger, the 13 songs on Ash & Ice are more understated, less tempestuous and more affecting because of that, exposing the kind of push–pull you feel when you find yourself in a complicated but all–consuming relationship. Ash & Ice is The Kills at their emotionally charged, arresting best. Prepare to be slayed.
♦ Keep on Your Mean Side (2003)
♦ No Wow (2005)
♦ Midnight Boom (2008)
♦ Blood Pressures (2011)
♦ Ash & Ice (2016)
By Stuart Berman, JUNE 7 2016 Score: 6.2
••→ Ash & Ice is The Kills’ first album in five years and they encompass everything they’ve done before, as well as bringing in boombox beats with Brazilian and Afro~pop influences.
••→ When the Kills first emerged, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince had a fire~and~water dynamic. Pitting her howls against his dead~cool guitar damage, the duo were like elemental forces locked in a symbiotic relationship of mutually assured destruction. Now, 15 years and five albums later, they’ve become Ash & Ice — refined byproducts of their original state, sapped of their frisson. When water hits fire, there’s sizzle and struggle and wreckage. When ash hits ice… well, you just wind up with a somewhat dirty piece of ice. And so it goes with this monolithic record, whose surface soot can’t disguise the fact it’s a little too chilled for its own good.
••→ Since their delightfully deviant debut Keep on Your Mean Side, The Kills have managed to squeeze a lot of juice from their bare~bones blues roots. Sophomore album No Wow delivered a pop punch, Midnight Boom saw them go electro, Blood Pressures dabbled in dub and pastoral balladry. Ash & Ice is The Kills’ first album in five years — a delay partly attributed to chronic tendon problems Hince experienced after breaking a finger. And, as if making up for lost time, they’ve returned with an ambitious record that encompasses everything they’ve done before and further embellishes their boombox beats with Brazilian and Afro~pop influences. Clocking in at 50 minutes, it is by far the longest Kills album to date. But while Ash & Ice has the girth of a big statement record, it lacks the focus and purposeful sequencing of one.
••→ The issue with Ash & Ice isn’t that The Kills are slowing down or going soft — the quietest tracks here actually resonate the most soundly. “Hum for Your Buzz” is a stripped~down gospelized serenade complete with organ drones and a steeple~shaking lead vocal from Mosshart — that’s destined to become a crowd~pleasing encore standard in the band’s setlist. By contrast, “That Love” is an affectingly unvarnished piano confessional that evokes the raw simplicity and bald lyricism of Plastic Ono Band~era John Lennon, while “Echo Home” is a gorgeously sullen duet whose slow~percolating dream~pop atmospherics and tick~tock beat mirror the doomed, dissolving romance playing out in the lyrics. For a band that once carefully cultivated its mystique through mugshot~style photos, mysterious aliases and sunglassed aloofness, The Kills have become remarkably adept at telegraphing intimacy and vulnerability. And with Hince’s finger injury forcing him to rethink his slash~and~scrape guitar technique, his playing on these downcast songs displays a heretofore~untapped delicacy and sensitivity.
••→ However, Ash & Ice is an album of quality comedown tracks surrounded by run~of~the~mill rockers that plateau instead of peak. It’s curious, since that the album actually boasts some of the band’s most candid and crushing lyrics to date — from the leash~fastening commitment pledge of “Heart of a Dog” (“I want strings attached/unnatural as that feels/I’m loyal!”) to the tawdry teases on “Siberian Nights” (“I could make you cum in threes/I’m halfway to my knees”) that are soon revealed to be the desperate entreaties of someone scared of enduring another night alone. (And according to Hince, that someone could very well be Vladimir Putin.) But the music rarely matches the feverish energy of those words, with the opening mid~tempo march of “Doing It to Death” setting a sluggish pace for the record that’s only compounded by the serviceable Stonesy struts (“Bitter Fruit,” “Black Tar”), drum~machined dirges (“Days of Why and How”), and deconstructed, broken~beat pop (“Let It Drop”). And the precious few shots of momentum like the gritty glam of “Impossible Tracks” and the Primal Scream~like motorik throb of “Whirling Eye” — slam on the brakes just as they’re about achieve lift~off, or rein in Hince’s ray~gunned guitar blasts right when he’s on the verge of entering berserker mode (“Hard Habit to Break”).
••→ The Kills enjoy a rarefied status in 2016. As one of the few active acts from the early~‘00s garage~rock explosion, they’ve transcended their early standing as an MTV2~friendly version of Royal Trux to become icons in their own right for a new generation of transgressive rockers. But Ash & Ice betrays the challenge of sustaining fresh inspiration deep into your second decade. The blues may have brought Mosshart and Hince together, but Ash & Ice too readily embodies one of the genre’s favored tropes — the struggle to keep on keepin’ on. ••→ http://pitchfork.com/
|Ash And Ice (June 3, 2016)|