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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Kills - Blood Pressures: A-

I’m one of the few people who were introduced to The Kills through Alison Mossheart’s Jack White-helmed side project, The Dead Weather. Their first album, Horehound, was the last fantastic product White put his name on. It was dark, perverted and great fun for its sheer lack of fucks to give and chutzpah density. I fell in love with its harrowed greasiness immediately, and it claimed the top spot of my albums of 2009 list with great help from Mossheart’s lead singing performance. Her work was balls-out and uncompromising. A place in my heart was secured for her when she lost all resolve at the close of “Bone House” and positively screamed her last verse with wild abandon like she had nothing left to lose.

As a part of The Kills, however, Mossheart does not come close to the bellowing behemoth featured so prominently on Horehound. Instead, we have a simmering, slinking singer who has less of a personality than a voice to share. She simply sings Blood Pressure’s melodies well and is more than happy to cede some vocal presence to her bandmate, Jamie Hince. “I swear this is the last goodbye,” she sings at the beginning of “The Last Goodbye”, implying a weakness and frailty toward leave a detrimental lover, a sentiment that would belie the mindset of the femme fatale that had a bullet burning a hole in her pocket on Horehound. On Blood Pressures, Mossheart isn’t the centerpiece of her songs, sharing significant space with other melodies and Hince’s guitar lines.

The good news is that the album does not lose much as a result of Mossheart’s loss in prominence, as Hince’s guitar lines and the group’s melodies are fantastic. Blood Pressures is an excellent record, even if it cruises in comparison to The Dead Weather discography. Every track is good for at least one catchy hook, and most have several. “Nail in My Coffin” floats atop a buoyant bass drum and snare pattern. “Damned If She Do” smolders with skuzzy guitar and drum machine and “Pots and Pans” thumps along with a foreboding acoustic and Mossheart’s playful derision of her lover’s high expectations. “Baby Says” is unique for featuring light verses that ceaselessly dive into an ominously jaded guitar riff. Mossheart raises her voice to excellent effect in “DNA”, as she is backed by group vocals that build around the line, “We will not be moved by it.”

My only criticism of Blood Pressures is that it is just a collection of excellent songs from a group I believe could have a more cohesive theme to their records. Regardless, the album is fantastic pop, however dark that pop may be. It is another great addition to the group’s assembly of tracks destined to slaughter when slathered in darkness and cigarette smoke when played on a stage. While not as crazed as a Mossheart project can be, Blood Pressures will not disappoint for its great riffs and nimble songwriting.


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