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Album Review
Ash & Ice

Ash & Ice
by The Kills

Domino Records

Review Date
23rd June 2016
Reviewed by
Rangi Powick

Ash & Ice is the fifth full-length release in a 15-year career for duo Jamie Hince and Allison Mosshart. As The Kills, they burst forth from the garage rock explosion in the early 00s that also gave rise to The White Stripes, The Hives, The Strokes, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and a slew of other "The" bands, including godzone group The Datsuns.

Over the course of their previous four albums The Kills have crafted a brash, experimental rewrite of the conventional rock ’n’ roll formula. Their sound is something akin to raw Stonesy blues clashing with 80s electric boogie electronics. Lo-fi beats and synths boom and chirp in the background while Hince’s fractured guitar whines over top, and Mosshart delivers lyrical tales of fun, filth, love and regret from the wrong side of the tracks. For better or worse, nothing much of that formula has been revised or rewritten on Ash & Ice.

The opening tracks 'Doing it to Death' and 'Heart of a Dog' present the best the album has to offer for new listeners. Both are chock-full of the swagger and bravado of a band that are confident in their sound. By contrast, the minimal serenade of 'Hum For Your Buzz' might find favour amongst fans of Adele, if only it weren’t so unvarnished.

Across the rest of the 50 minutes of Ash & Ice there is a sense that although the bands’ sonic experiments are replicable, the results are more often plateaus than peaks. The low-key dirge of ‘Impossible Tracks’ or the bleary-eyed dream pop of ‘Echo Home’ stand toe-to-toe with The Kills’ better moments, but the sound clash can produce a fizzle rather than a bang if the ideas don’t blend. ‘Black Tar’, with its breakbeat rhythms and stock guitar work is mostly just filling in time, and Mosshart’s vocal can’t quite lift the song above the mundane.

If the worst criticism that can be made of Ash & Ice is "well, not all the songs are great, and it sounds a lot like their other stuff" then there really isn’t anything much to complain about. If you like this record, then will probably dig their other records too, and vice versa.


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