The Kills are one of the most consistent modern rock bands of the 21st century. With every new release, you can expect rock ‘n’ roll with a beating pulse. Ash & Ice is no different – like the album cover depicts, this album brings you the musical equivalent of volcanic eruptions and chilled cocktails.
The album begins with a bit of an unusual start, as “Doing It To Death” is probably one of their more eccentric tracks due to its laid back beat and drum/synth machine pattern. But then Jamie Hince’s guitar soars in as reassurance that yes, this is indeed a record by The Kills, even with the electronic undercurrent that is hard to ignore. “Heart of a Dog”, “Bitter Fruit”, and “Hard Habit to Break” are classic Kills tracks, simply put. “Impossible Tracks” can be a serious contender for rock song of the summer with its sinister riff. Whether its those pounding rock tunes that power ahead without any concern for the destruction they leave in their path or the slower songs like “Hum For Your Buzz” that have a biting criticism in their lyrics (something Allison Mosshart has done beautifully between her various lead singing duties), the record is basically what you’d expect from the duo. Just throw on Ray-Bans and a sneer and grind out these great tracks on your car stereo.
But even with the welcome familiarity of The Kills’ rock quirks, a few tracks fall flat trying to stay too close to modern alternative rock tropes. “Days of Why and How” is great in its lyricism but pretty boring in its composition (backed by what seems like an inexplicably chosen hip-hop drum track), followed by “Let It Drop” which is one of the stranger The Kills songs musically, featuring single-note guitar riffs and a minimal drum track peppered with bombastic bass drum hits. Later on, “That Love” seems like an attempt to re-create the unexpected success of their previous record’s ballad, “The Last Goodbye.” They’re songs that can be appreciated for their musical risks, but just don’t fit into the record’s ecosystem. The aforementioned “Hum For Your Buzz” and “Echo Home” are examples of how they do the ‘ballad’ well on the record, the latter with bending guitar notes and pleading vocals that evoke some pretty intense emotions (as much as it sounds like something by the xx). Regardless, the rest of the album picks up the slack – those rumbling rock tracks are too hard to resist, even with the occasional piano break.
The name of the record could not be more fitting: half the songs leave smoky remains from Hince’s blistering guitar and in-your-face attitude of Mosshart, while the other half are chilling ballads that freeze you with their sincerity and power. The duo prove consistently that more of the same can be a good thing. While nothing they’re doing is as ground-breaking as their earliest releases, the consistency is just as ass-kicking. The Kills show that they can make you freeze and bring you to your knees at will.
Rock | Domino