Gritty Boy-Girl Duo Would Rather Trash Your Garage Than Cuddle

The Kills
Blood Pressures

The bratty beach romance of Wavves and Best Coast, the hazy candlelit ballads of Beach House, the deafening flirtation of Sleigh Bells — clearly indie rock has fallen for the boy-girl duo. While all that handholding and latent sexual tension might be enough to irritate a seasoned twosome like the Kills — the collaboration of singer Alison “VV” Mosshart and guitarist Jamie “Hotel” Hince — the duo’s fourth LP,  Blood Pressures, tunes out the trend in favor of further synthesizing its calculated garage-rock grit.

VV and Hotel abandon the stripped-down pop of 2008’s Midnight Boom, combining the darker, distorted beatbox-rock of their first two albums with matured, blues-leaning vocals. Opener “Future Starts Slow” builds a shadowy Pixies guitar line and scattering percussion to an unrelenting vocal duet full of sinister and soulfully delivered lyrics: “You can holler / You can wait / You can swing / You can flail.” This morbid tone seems to haunt Blood Pressures from beginning to end.

When the Kills do utilize the male-female, hot v. cold aesthetic, it is with a self-assured nonchalance — a persistent reminder that these two have been at it for over a decade. Standout “Satellite” commands a stomping klezmer rhythm under an eerily restrained vocal harmony. The product is a fuzzed-out roof-shaker that’s as powerful as it is chilling, drawing tension, rather than cuteness, at every bone-breaking half-step.

Piano waltz “The Last Goodbye” shifts gear completely, enveloping Mosshart’s oddly sentimental vocal melody in a cloud of wispy strings and record player crackling. The faux-vintage Western ballad is an interesting detour, but the gimmick inevitably wears thin, leaving us mourning the ramshackle directness of past singles like “Wait” and “The Good Ones.”

Ultimately, Blood Pressures succeeds as a solid entry in the Kills’ cigarettes-and-leather-jackets catalogue. When VV and Hotel are both singing, there are no complex harmonies. When they’re hammering out a breakdown, it’s primal drums and guitar. Nothing showy, nothing cute, just simple fuck-you garage-rock with purpose. (7/10)

— Tanner Cook