ratethatalbum: review of CHROMATICS - KILL FOR LOVE
Kill for Love
I’ve been waiting for this record for five years. And what’s worse than waiting for Chromatics’ followup to 2007’s Night Drive is when the project’s mastermind Johnny Jewel says Kill for Love will drop in January but then it doesn’t. Then on Valentines Day…but then it doesn’t. But the wait was totally worth it: Kill for Love is everything I hoped and wanted from Chromatics.
The string of five singles the Portland band released were incredibly promising. Last October, the band dropped the title single, which ended up in my top 30 best songs of the year. Chromatics also released a video for their cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” — simply titled “Into the Black.” It’s a daring cover but the band does it justice as they have with other covers like Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” and Bruce Springstein’s haunting “I’m on Fire.”
The band has gotten a larger audience lately thanks the fucking amazing 2011 film Drive. Some of Jewel’s music appeared in the thriller-noir film (including Chromatic’s heart-pumping “Tick of the Clock”). And what didn’t appear in the film apparently ended up on Jewel and label-mate Nat Walker’s breathtaking project Symmetry’s album Themes for an Imaginary Film. Instead of pop songs, the duo focused on emotion and a soundscape of beautiful synths and truly make you feel like living in a movie — and on Kill for Love the same thing happens but it’s not so blatant.
Like M83, Chromatics draw on thematic elements that evoke raw emotion. While M83 focuses on things that make you feel young or like an angsty teen by the use of lyrics, Chromatic’s nearly use their sound. Just like Night Drive there is a strong sense of cinematic quality here most noticeably on the heartbreaking track “There’s a Light Out on the Horizon” where a voicemail message of someone’s lover is deleted, all backed by slick, cool, badass, don’t-give-a-fuck beat. You can just picture someone (Driver) riding in their car in the California desert with the sun slowly sinking down — the person has sunglasses on and just embodies badassness.
But the more constructed pop songs, like “Return From the Grave” work towards the cinematic aesthetic. The creepiness of all the tracks take the LP into the right direction, especially coming from their last EP In the City. Kill for Love works so well it becomes a soundtrack to its own horror movie within itself. The ambient, drifting but beautiful songs like “The Eleventh Hour,” “Broken Mirrors” and “Running from the Sun” all work magnificently as mood pieces. They also make you appreciate the Chromatic’s pop songs like the mind-blowing “The Page,” and the reworked version of the masterful “Lady.”
Not one track is a disappointment here. Although “The River” sounds better as Symmetry’s “Streets of FIre” it still holds its own. Even the 15 minute closer “No Escape” is a wonderful cherry on top. But tracks like “Birds of Paradise,” “Candy,” and the robotic/male-lead/auto-tune “These Streets Will Never Look the Same” and the before mentioned well-structured pop songs prove that Chromatics are one of the best bands out there today.