Pop Culture

The Kills: Blood Pressures


By Andy Frisk
April 27, 2011 - 18:42

It’s a shame that The Kills will now be eternally compared, contrasted, and referenced to Alison Mosshart’s more commercially visible collaboration with Jack White, The Dead Weather. It’s even more of a shame that many people only know of The Kills and their music because of their affinity for The Dead Weather. The Kills, like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and now The Dead Weather are one of the seminal bands of the 2000’s explosion of alt rock groups defined by their minimalist and down and dirty sounding drums and guitar. These bands are an amalgamation of dirty delta blues, grungy sounding guitar, and, especially in The Kills and The Dead Weather’s case, sultry, slightly aggressive, and sexually frustrated and occasionally liberated vocals. Mosshart and her partner in The Kills, Jamie Hince, have been making this great type of music for a while now, and with Blood Pressures they keep up the good work.

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Alas though, as already bewailed, The Kills will now forever be compared with the more popular The Dead Weather, but upon a closer listen, Blood Pressures proves to be a major, although unlikely, contributor to this dilemma. Alison’s time with Jack White and his crew in The Dead Weather has had an influence on her and Hince’s newest collaborative work. While The Kills still have their own distinct sound and type of songwriting that, while definitely marking them as a member of the 2000’s minimalist and post punk dirty blues movement, is unique enough on its own to not sound exactly like the The Dead Weather. Blood Pressures is a major departure from The Kills 2008 release Midnight Boom though. Midnight Boom was the closest that The Kills ever came to the experimental phase that The White Stripes went through on Get Behind Me SatanMidnight Boom boasted a very clean and highly produced sound. The guitars were less muddy, the beats a little more poppy, and the vocals actually processed (albeit to an interesting effect) on songs like “Getting Down.” Blood Pressures brings The Kills, if not back to the garage, back to the raw guitar and drum sound that they became known for on their first two albums. The similarities between The Kills Blood Pressures’ track “Satellite” and The Dead Weather’s “No Hassle Night,” the least of which includes Mosshart’s slow burn vocals and grinding mid tempo guitar and slogging sound, speaks to Mosshart’s time with The Dead Weather, and to the distinct sound that she either rediscovered while playing with White and the gang or borrowed back from White and the gang. I remember Anthony Kiedis stating something like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction were at one point an “incestuous, free flowing amalgamation of songwriting and sound” when Dave Navarro was part of his band during one of the many hiatus stints that Jane’s Addition have become notorious for. The same is true for The Kills and The Dead Weather…

…but enough about the similarities between Mosshart’s two bands. Blood Pressures’ solid balance of slow burn and up tempo rock makes this record, all comparisons to The Dead Weather aside, The Kills’ most balanced and consistent album. Songs like “DNA,” with its simple declaration “Love…love…love till you get enough, dance…dance…dance…till there’s no one left to hound you” and repetitive guitar that slowly and subtly changes volume and intensity like a more contemplative signature “loud/quiet” grunge song dichotomy, communicates so much with so little. Hince coaxes a near illegal amount of sound and diversity out of his simple chord progressions and riffs. He shouldn’t be able to create such textures with so little variation. He is a master though of understated playing, and his talent shines through on several of Blood Pressures’ tracks. “Baby Says,” the track immediately following “DNA,” opens with a muddily shimmering riff which frames and foreshadows his and Mosshart’s dual vocals that shimmer off one another through the opening verse. His incredibly subtle guitar work during the bridge of the album’s opening track “The Future Starts Slow” is so powerfully moving because it so quietly sneaks up on you. He carries the song, and you, towards its climactic conclusion before you even know you’ve arrived at this point in the song. Rarely upon the first listening of a new album do I have to listen to the first song over again immediately before progressing through the rest of the album simply because it struck me so. “The Future Starts Slow” is simply the perfect example of what The Kills do best: get you to want to listen again and again to what they are saying and playing. With each repeated listen the album simply gets better and better.

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So while Alison Mosshart might now be doomed to be perennially mislabeled the front woman of her “side band” The Kills by fair weather or new music listeners who discovered her through The Dead Weather, The Kills prove with Blood Pressures that although they were first, side projects like The Dead Weather-while being tough on the musician’s creative biography-can help stretch their creative energies in ways unforeseen while reminding them of what made their original projects so great in the first place. 

Rating: 9 /10


Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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