It’s no secret that I have been incredibly wary of the current wave of the Post-Punk Revival, believing that it is mostly warmed up leftovers from a special musical epoch now 25 years old. But of course, there is an exception to every rule.
This Portland-based band started life as a spiky noisenik outfit and released a debut album in that vein in 2003 viz. Chrome Rats vs Basement Rutz. However, in 2005, Chromatics would undergo radical changes to its lineup with Ruth Radelet (vocals), Johnny Jewel (producer/multi-instrumentalist), and Nat Walker (drums/synthesizer) joining, with guitarist Adam Miller the remaining founder. The result was a sophomore release – Night Drive – that having taken electronica fully on board, with strong hints of the Post-Punk Revival. The track “Tick of the Clock” gained recognition after it was featured on the Drive soundtrack.
Which set the stage for the latest album – Kill for Love – released earlier in 2012, and in my humble estimation, one of the best albums of the Post-Punk Revival era, let alone 2012. Right from the opening cover version of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) – the haunting “Into the Black” (video below), it is obvious that Chromatics is not interested in sounding like the rest of the sheep copycat hipster bands out there in the modern rock wasteland.
“Kill for Love” may superficially recall the 80s with its New Order/Depeche Mode references but there is a distinct attitude especially in Radelet’s languid vocal delivery. Miller’s guitar work helps songs like “These Strings Will Never Look the Same” and “Dust to Dust” escape the usual hipster cliches by channeling a hybrid of older sounds coupled with the now-traditional dance pop styles. Not only that but the band’s penchant for emphasizing soundtrack designs in songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “The Eleventh Hour” keeps the aural experience intriguing always.
More thoughtful (and less trippier) than its predecessor but Kill for Love demonstrates that it is possible for uncompromising intelligent and artistic bands to make challenging original music during these fallow years.
You can also listen to Kill for Love in its entirety at Soundcloud!