The Kills come into its fourth studio album, “Blood Pressures,” with potential to smash down the walls keeping them out of mainstream popularity. Vocalist Alison Mosshart got her name out by joining Jack White’s super group, The Dead Weather, and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Hince, while not doing anything relevant musically, got engaged to supermodel Kate Moss. They were already critical darlings (2008’s “Midnight Boom” was this reviewer’s album of the year), but can they come through with the spotlight on them?
Kind of. “Pressures” is a significant step away from what made “Boom” a success. The latter was a collection of short, catchy numbers while the new album heads in a more traditional rock direction, with most tracks surpassing four minutes in length and guitars at the forefront of the instrumental approach. This will work to draw in new fans,but it will be disappointing to the groups stalwart fans.
As a duo, the Mosshart and Hince can only handle so many instruments. Therefore, Mosshart’s use of her sneering, sultry voice to express the group’s attitude was essential. It just doesn’t happen enough on “Blood Pressures.” “Baby Says” and “Future Starts Slow” ditch the expected devil-may-care attitude the band was known for, and “Last Goodbye” doesn’t sound even mildly sarcastic in its sappy approach.
Hince’s focus on the guitar isn’t all that bad. Mosshart’s voice sounds great matched up with his bluesy guitar riffs on tracks like “DNA.” Hince deserves instrumental credit for his percussion work on “Heart is A Beating Drum.
Even when the bluesy approach works, the songs are still too long to keep the listener hooked. The Kills is more of a Joe Frazier than a Muhammad Ali: generally, it excels in quick matches with constant action, rather than using finesse for more drawn-out bouts.