It takes a lot of chutzpah to start your new record with a cover of one Classic Rock’s much beloved singer-songwriters, but the Chromatics‘ hubris is well placed. Reworking Neil Young‘s classic “Into the Black”, the band transforms the original’s hard-rock throttle into a subdued and languid reflective number, replete with electronic beats and synthesizers and Ruth Radelet’s ethereal vocals. Perhaps, there is no better tribute to a song about Rock’s staying power and its continuous ability to reinvent itself, then to recast it in the predominant or modern mode of musical production? Regardless, what is evident from the onset of the Chromatics’ Kill For Love is the band’s impressive ability to create an intricate atmospheric environment of sound. If the opener doesn’t strike your fancy, just listen to breathtakingly brilliant second track “Kill For Love”, the first single released (and, in my opinion, one of the best songs of the year). Unlike many other Indie-electronic bands, the Chromatics don’t feel the need to “speed things up”, instead they allow the songs to slowly develop, even leaving long spaces of inaction and minimal instrumentation between choruses and verses. “Kill for Love” constantly plays with your expectations of an intense build-up and explosion while constantly meandering through a confusedly dream and dirge-like tune with Ruth acting as a tempting siren. I don’t use these words and imagery lightly; I have found myself lost in almost a trance-like state listening to the entire record.
Although the band has a decidedly modern sound, like many great “dream pop” or electronic-oriented rock bands they also draw from a 60s doo-wop, Mod sound; similar to the Raveonettes (see “Candy”), yet with a more drawn out, Goth-y, Shoe-gazer feel. In fact, the record evokes the classic (and recently re-issued) Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Also, the album covers are oddly reminiscent of each other; MBV’s album shows a blurred-out shot of what appears to be a person playing a guitar (see below) while the Chromatics’ cover shows a more in-focus guitar player with a reddish tint (see above). Coincidence or influence? (If I were more thorough, I might cull through interviews and reviews to see if there is any information on this.) Much live Loveless, Kill for Love is the kind of record that one really needs to hear from beginning to end because it is all about ambience and subtle variations in tones. In other words, do not expect an up-beat traditional pop song to catch you unawares; however, there is some choice use of the vocorder. The album plays more like a film soundtrack than a traditional record (the band even plays this up with “mock” film credits on the back sleeve of the album), which is amusing because the Chromatics received a great deal of attention and fanfare last year for their contribution to the Drive soundtrack. And, if you liked the mode and pacing of Drive, deliberately lugubrious and tension-filled, you will thoroughly enjoy Kill For Love.
However, what do I know, right? Rather than breaking this album apart by its constituent pieces, take it for you own spin.
Listen to the Chromatics’ Kill For Love, in its entirety (and courtesy of the band) below (via Soundcloud).
Other exquisite individual tracks: “The Page” “Lady”, and “Birds of Paradise” (Yes, I tend to enjoy the tracks with Ruth’s vocals the most.)
Note (1) – The album has numerous extended instrumental tracks. Don’t assume the record has ended.
Note (2) – For fans of:
Album cover for My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless(for sake of comparison)