The Kills - Ash & Ice
With their fifth studio album, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince return after their last release in 2011, Blood Pressures. After continuing delays to recording thanks in part to an unfortunate accident leading Jamie to lose the use of his middle finger and require several operations, and Alison’s side project work with The Dead Weather, they reportedly entered the studio striving to find a new sound different to their previous efforts. Have they achieved this? Yes and No.
On first listen, Ash & Ice is more of a down tempo affair, missing some of the more raucous rock and roll posturing prevalent on their debut Keep On Your Mean Side. However, despite the more laid back approach their fifth album manages to inject a poppier vibe, even finding time to throw in some Afrobeat style drum work coupled with stuttering guitar on 'Hard Habit To Break'. It still retains elements of the group’s previous sound of dirty rhythm and blues with an electro pop twinge. Highlights of the album include lead single and downright sleazy 'Doing it to Death', the Rolling Stonesesque 'Bitter Fruit' which threatens to go full 'Gimme Shelter' at any moment, the piano lament of 'That Love' with its chorus of "It’s over now, that love you’re in is all fucked up, that love is done", and the stripped down gospel howl and future crowd singalong of 'Hum For Your Buzz'.
The issue with the album is that it can’t quite decide what it wants to be, it is undeniably one of the more laid back efforts from the transatlantic duo, but there are times where it feels like they have purposely restrained and throttled themselves - such as Patti Smith meets Primal Scream 'Whirling Eye which promises a lot but doesn’t quite hit the highs you think it’s going to. As one of the few remaining bands from the garage rock explosion of the early 2000s, Ash & Ice is a departure from their original restrictive blues roots, but a minor one that does still show some promise. Hopefully this is only the start of their musically regeneration.