Pop Addict: The Kills’ Blood Pressures

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

The Kills: Blood PressuresThe Kills: Blood Pressures (Domino, 4/5/11)

The Kills: “DNA”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/4f1aThe-Kills-DNA.mp3|titles=The Kills: “DNA”]

Ever since 2002, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, better known as The Kills, have been etching their names in the minds of listeners thanks to their abundance of menacing, freaked-out rock. But on Blood Pressures, the band’s latest effort, The Kills’ typical rough-sewn, scatterbrained freak rock is pared down. Unlike past efforts — where the focus of songs may have been more bent on making raucous, balls-to-the-wall mishmashes — the new album plays to The Kills’ strengths, as the veteran witch/warlock duo constructs an impressive collection of dark, decadent indie rock.

Mosshart, who has become a household name in the indie scene thanks to the immense popularity of her Jack White-helmed side project, The Dead Weather, once again teams with her cohort, Hince, who has lately found his way into headlines (in Britain, anyway) for his recent engagement to Kate Moss. Once again, the two have come together to devise a simultaneously explosive and subdued collection. Mosshart’s familiar vocals are as confident and as fierce as ever, while Hince’s flexed musical muscles show off an assortment of multi-instrumentation and sonic diversity.

The real success here, though, is The Kills’ bare-bones, gritty approach to songwriting and recording — a scheme that the duo knows well, never letting its music get bogged down with brash overkill and over-the-top excess. Like its previous albums, there is a grittiness that pervades the sound, a badge of pride that the band wears. And understandably so — because of that confidence and know-how, Blood Pressures grabs you by the lapels and never lets go, using a grainy sound and simple structures that gravitate towards accessibility without ever selling out.

But that framework doesn’t mean that the songs are sparse or simplistic. Instead,  a series of musical elements weave in and out through every track, lending both variety and cohesion to the album as Mosshart and Hince navigate the music’s darkened landscape with a torch and pitchfork. Gems like “Satellite” use a simple bass line to drive the song forward until it blossoms into a haunting, chanting choir, and the excellent “Heart is a Beating Drum” starts out with a playful drumbeat that evolves into an upbeat Halloween-esque groove. “Damned If She Do” mixes the blues infusion of The Black Keys with the goth-rock mysticism of The Raveonettes, and the cryptic “DNA” (perhaps the best representative of the album’s sound) displays jilting percussion, overdriven bass, distorted guitars, ghostly vocals and harmonies, and caged energy.

One surprising aspect of Blood Pressures, though, is when the band dials it down and shows a softer side. The briefly tooled “Wild Charms” features bare instrumentation and sad, lonely vocals by Hince, and “Last Goodbye” features Mosshart’s soulful musings of lost love set to a crackling piano-and-string medley. However, even on the softer songs, an ever-present ominousness lingers. When all is said and done, Blood Pressures is a quintessential spook-rock album, mixing elements of rock, goth, and blues into a gigantic, bubbling cauldron. It’s a concoction that all listeners should, at the very least, try.

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