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The Kills “Blood Pressures” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Relationships have a tendency of continually changing; a difference which is only made that much more apparent given significant spans of time. It’s been three years since Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart released their last album together, 2008′s Midnight Bloom, and during the years that followed Mosshart focused much of her creativity on her work with the Dead Weather while Hince devoted his heart to another Moss. In reconvening, Blood Pressures has become a test of their ongoing relationship: the production gaging the cohesion between two friends and musical allies while the outcome serves as a diagnosis of the present health of the Kills.

If you were to base early speculation of what the album were to sound like on interviews alone, it might have appeared a mess, with the pair seeming even that much more removed from one another: Hince basking in Roxy Music’s catalog during the time of the album’s recording while Mosshart was occupying herself with Johnny Cash and the “Southern blues world.” Almost immediately, however, any lingering trepidation concerning the cohesiveness of the duo is quashed as “Future Starts Slow” winds the album up musically while heavily showcasing their vocal chemistry.

Despite the different starting points, musically, Blood Pressures does well to retain a certain level of cohesiveness all the way through. The sputtering intro of “Satellite” cedes to Hince’s crunching guitar and Mosshart’s alluring drawn out “oooooooh”s, each of which provoke an immense emotional reaction. The rumbling sound of “DNA” offers the meanest guitar piece on the album while Mosshart teases with the occasional glimpse of her unrestrained vocals. “Heart is a Beating Drum” and “Nail in My Coffin” both simmer (each utilizing a funny ping pong ball-sounding hand clap), “Damned If She Do” slowly creeps through grungy blues before unbuckling in the chorus (“She come alive when she dyin’!”), and “You Don’t Own the Road” adds a snapping bounce that is unrivaled elsewhere on the LP. Blood Pressures isn’t without its unique deviations however, each stubbornly disrupting the pace of the album.

“Wild Charms,” Hince’s odd 75 second Beatles-eqsue flirtation, is later complemented in the album by “The Last Goodbye.” Discussing the track with Spinner, Mosshart recently explained, “It’s one of those ones that you just sit down with an acoustic guitar and wrote a song and love it so much. It was so kind of straight and normal—sort of like Patsy Cline—that something had to happen and it couldn’t be on a Kills record, but Jamie played around with it and tried different instruments with it. It kind of turned into a Velvet Underground song, if you can believe that.” There is nothing wrong with either song—each is unique and offers evidence of balanced musicianship within the group—but they nonetheless break up consistency on the album. To a far lesser degree, “Baby Says” is also unique in that respect, but only in that it lacks some of the vibrancy that shines through elsewhere on Blood Pressures. Unsurprisingly however, by the time album closer “Pots and Pans” stomps its way into the picture, all is forgotten. Hince’s rigid acoustic picking is mashed with a bottleneck slide and Mosshart’s woeful tale of an exhaustive relationship. Two-thirds of the way through the track Hince crashes in with a dirty electric, driving “Pots and Pans” to its sonic peak while Mosshart chants “These are the days that I’ll never forget/When the dawn dawns on you.” The song is entirely unique on the album—an outlier, for sure—but it also helps redefine the bond between the two musicians, thoroughly reconfirming their compatibility with one another.

“I don’t think any kind of break can fuck with 11 and a half years, you know?” reflected Mosshart in an interview with Vanity Fair earlier this month. The Kills are a durable pair, each on the same level musically as if they were connected via some mystical cosmic force; even after a couple of years of relative separation they’ve managed to pick up right where they left off. Blood Pressures isn’t without its imperfections and inconsistencies, but if the album’s only purpose were to measure the current vitality of the group, it becomes easy to conclude that the Kills are once again alive and well.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]