Chromatics - Kill For Love
The grandest of scales. Such has been the goal of Chromatics over the recent course of their career. Of course, it’s easy to forget that they were once a goth-y post punk band, but judging entirely on the basis of 2007’s Night Drive and this new record, it’s fairly easy to see that Chromatics is operating, at least idealistically, far from the general realms of indie music.
It's easy enough to record a few songs, slap them together and call it an album, but Chromatics, in their attempts at this grand scale, have never been content to go with this mode of performance. Instead they focus on incredibly detailed and dynamic tracks that flow together over the course of an album to create defined moods.
Kill For Love is no different. If anything it compounds the feeling that Chromatics are acting far outside the realm of indie rock despite the fact that they share in the 80s fetishism that so often pervades the genre. I mean, first and foremost, it’s an hour and a half long. It is this fact that has drawn the most early criticism of the album, but it’s really just their approach. In a recent conversation we had with Johnny Jewel, he said that "There’s nothing stretched for length or abbreviated for punch on the album," that "Every second is essential." Now far be it from me to blindly agree with Jewel’s seeming hyperbole, but I’m inclined to agree with him.
Despite the fact that this album’s massive sprawl is unlike anything else we’ve seen in recent years, with the exception of maybe M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, its tone seems familiar in ways. The brand of 80s fetishism that Chromatics espoused on Night Drive is mostly intact here, but if not for the astounding songwriting it might seem a bit dated at this point. Though in 2007, the band seemed ahead of the curve with their moody introspective take on 80s synth music, it has since been aped across the indie music world. So Chromatics has responded, instead of changing up their style, by writing better songs than ever. It’s really easy to cherry pick favorites, but even that seems unfair to the rest of the tracks. Something like 'The Page' might seem an obvious standout, with Ruth Radelet’s typically outstanding vocals taking an even more emotional bent. However, when you consider that such a track is sandwiched between 'Back From The Grave' and 'Lady', two incredible tracks in their own right highlighting just that one track seems unfair. Sure, there are singles littered throughout. Each of the aforementioned tracks holds up exceedingly well outside of the context of the album. It's just that the album is such an entirely immersive experience from the beginning to the end that it seems somehow inappropriate to assert the superiority of one track over another.
I find myself appreciating certain moments, again like a film, rather than the tracks that contain them. It’s the chill that descends the moment 'Into The Black' closes. It’s the instant the vocoder enters on 'These Streets Will Never Look The Same'. It’s the slow fade on 'No Escape'. Littered throughout are these emotionally affecting moments. And it’s these moments, and the whole of the album, that stick with you rather than the entirety of any particular track. It’s no surprise that some of the promotional materials for the album posited it as a film written by Johnny Jewel and Adam Miller because in a lot of ways, this album is bigger than just music.
Purchase and listen
Patience is a virtue so they say, which would surely allow those who have been waiting with baited breath for the follow up to Johnny Jewel’s Italians Do It Better label’s compilation album After Dark, (released way back in 2007) if not saint status at least a follow up record worth their long six year wait. [read more]