The fifth full-length album from indie rock duo The Kills and follow-up to their 2011 effort Blood Pressures has been in the making for quite some time, but now, five years and five hand surgeries later, Jamie Hince and frontwoman Alison Mosshart are finally back with Ash & Ice, set to release through Domino on June 3rd.
Between the roaring “Doing it to Death” and the foot-stomping groove in “Heart of a Dog,” the record’s two singles open things fantastically. An infectious drum fill is the focus of “Hard Habit to Break,” and it pairs quite nicely with the prominent low-end, while Hince’s riffing, aside from a riled-up bridge, stays relatively subdued. Hince then steps in to assist Mosshart on “Bitter Fruit,” resulting in the two’s raspy vocals complementing each other extremely well on this upbeat post-punk rocker. “Days of Why and How” features a galactic drum beat and an equally trance-inducing guitar riff throughout, the latter of which is particularly stellar to finish things.
The straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll picks back up on “Let it Drop,” which feels minimalistic yet powerful all at once. “Hum for Your Buzz” is the most retro-sounding song on the album, with a screaming bluesy riff throughout and an organ which comes in about two-thirds of the way through. The most intriguing part of “Hum for Your Buzz,” however, is the percussion, which is virtually nonexistent except for one of the choruses. “Siberian Nights” is among the record’s longer cuts and melds a quieter, higher-end riff with a louder, bassier one, making for a solid Brit.-rock stomper. The intensity briefly steps aside on the piano-driven ballad “That Love.” This intensity returns on “Impossible Tracks,” a song which continuously builds until it sounds like it’s going to culminate on the bridge, but ultimately doesn’t. As a result, it feels like the whole build has been in vain, and yet, in spite of this, “Impossible Tracks” still isn’t bad.
“Black Tar” starts out fairly run-of-the-mill until the riff which enters in the bridge helps to turn things up a notch or two for the remainder of the song. The constant drum pounding on “Echo Home” lays a solid foundation as Hince returns to co-lead with Mosshart; once again the vocal blending of the two is flawless, but this time in a more subdued context. “Whirling Eye” closes things out with a bang: the simplistic drum beat plays the perfect counterpart to the wild guitar, the latter of which can really be heard in the chorus and again at the song’s end. Needless to say, “Whirling Eye” is a killer finish to Ash & Ice.
The Kills have done it again with their latest studio effort, proving that a decade and a half of existence does not necessarily mean artistic stagnancy. Ash & Ice starts strong, finishes strong, and has plenty of stellar cuts in between. There are a few notable weaknesses, but not enough to keep the record from being great overall. Of the year’s releases thus far, Ash & Ice is one of alt.-rock’s staples.