From the first notes of Doing it to Death my body relaxes and my heart sighs with relief - it's going to be another scorcher, another Kills album that I'm going to play over and over again and never get tired of hearing.
The Kills are one of those bands that I've lost count of how many times I have seen live. Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Bowery Ballroom (for some magazine party I think?!), Terminal 5... There was one performance at Webster Hall in 2008 where there was some kind of fire in the roof and the show was suddenly stopped until a fireman came out on stage and yelled "the show must go on!". I still remember quite vividly sitting right above the stage at Terminal 5, watching my friends hit the beats on those drums, beating the sounds right into my heart.. I have a long history with this band and feel like they will be forever sewn into my life as it moves along. Ash & Ice is one of my most anticipated albums of the year, in addition to Garbage and Nick Cave’s new endeavours, and I'm so happy that yet again they have given me another reason to love them even more!
Some bands change it up completely with each new album; some develop their sound and stick to it. There are risks with either approach, the former alienating their fan base, the latter boring their fan base, but if you find that perfect balance you can only create great things. The Kills have always had their own sound, dirty, gritty, sexy rock with guitars that sweep you off the ground; chucking you in the air and slamming you back down on the sticky floor, while the vocals are both tart and sweet. Allison Mosshart’s voice is soulful enough to pull at your heart and gritty enough to make you want to be her when you grow up. They've stayed true to their sound but worked on it, improved it, taken their sound and pushed it every single time. No album sounds the same, you are happy to get that true Kills sound, but excited to hear new songs all at the same time.
I find that on the whole the album is more heavy on the synths than previous works, maybe due to Jamie Hince's recent hand surgeries, maybe not, but it works well, bringing a new take on their still unmistakable sound, a little more depth in some places, a little more lightness in others. I also found that the lyrics are deeper, more introspective, digging deeper than Blood Pressures did. I feel that Allison started putting more of herself into her lyrics on the 2011 release and just went further on Ash & Ice.
I love those songs that are stripped down with Allison's voice belting out heartfelt lyrics (Days of Why and How on Ash & Ice or Last Goodbye from Blood Pressures). She injects so much emotion and raw energy into every word she sings. Hum for your Buzz is so bluesy and those organ sounds that pop up in the song are just perfect, listening to it makes me seriously feel like I'm in a dark bar at 2am listening to a beautiful woman belt out her heartache under a blue light... Tom Waits could come stepping in at any moment to join her. That Love had me in tears and the strumming melody behind Jamie and Allison’s soft vocals convey so much nostalgia in Echo Home.
At the same time Ash & Ice is full of heavier rock tracks, like the first single off the album, Doing it to Death, Heart of a Dog or Impossible Tracks. The dissonant and fractured guitar sounds on Hard Habit to Break is the same sound that drew me to love this band from the beginning, and definitely not a habit I want them to break any time soon!
All in all I find that there is more emotion in Allison's voice, in Jamie's guitar riffs... Life happened and they captured it, digested it and spat it out separately and together all at once. Ash & Ice, the remnants of a fire and a deep freeze, opposites but together, the phoenix rising again.
You see, for me The Kills are my New York City, always will be. Any one of these songs on the album conjures up memories of drinking in a bar, walking down a street, sitting in someone's apartment the night after the night before. Memories that are sometimes best forgotten, but nowadays remembered with a smile. Black Tar really grabbed me by the guts in this aspect. Ash & Ice is every bit as good as previous albums and don't let any music critic say otherwise. There is so much emotion, pain and hard work dripping from every note and every word on this album and I can't wait to play it over and over again on our record player.
Ash & Ice was released today (June 3rd). The Kills are on tour right now, all information about tours, albums and anything else is available on their website.