In a musical era when a mellow band like Coldplay, whose music I would describe as “fine,” is winning Grammy awards in rock categories and Top 40 radio is almost completely devoid of the rock genre altogether, I get excited when a legitimate rock band actually releases an album. Throw in my love of a great female front woman and my options are whittled down to about three acts total. So when The Kills announced the release of their new album Ash & Ice, I couldn’t help but be hopeful.
I really wanted to like this album. Really, I did. Their last album, 2011’s Blood Pressures, had some really excellent tracks, like “Future Starts Slow,” that, despite its fairly repetitive guitar riff, was charged and had building momentum. Their 2008 album Midnight Boom, while a bit more experimental, had the unique, yet rockin’ single “U.R.A. Fever.” But with Ash & Ice, I’m left feeling incredibly underwhelmed. “Monotonous” is the first word that comes to mind after my initial listen. On a vast majority of the songs, lead singer Alison Mosshart applies the exact same level of forced intensity to songs that never really go anywhere.
There are a couple of tracks that do stand out on the album though. On “Echo Home” guitarist Jamie Hince joins in singing with Mosshart in a laidback, super-cool duet. His guitar playing takes on a hazy, warbled effect and Mosshart shows some restraint in her vocals, making for a much better song than so many of the album’s other tracks. “Hard Habit” features some great metallic, industrial sounds, reminding me of “Satellite” from Blood Pressures. “That Love” is a simple piano ballad that really focuses on Mosshart’s impressive singing abilities and, to be perfectly honest, actually reminds me quite a bit of Lady Gaga’s “Dope.” (Stripped of their costumes and personas, their voices sound remarkably similar to me.) “Doing It to Death,” the album’s single, is growing on me the more I listen to it, but it still doesn’t feel like anything that genuinely special.
All in all, after a five-year band hiatus, I guess I just expected more from this duo.