Chromatics // Kill For Love // March 27 // Italians Do It Better
I might have repeat what I’ve already expressed in Symmetry’s Themes For An Imaginary Film review but Johnny Jewel is currently a top tier electronic music producer single-handedly pushing his italo-disco infused brand of American noir-pop onto the audiences that are no longer limited to the venues his projects are playing at. While all of his music is carefully produced and detailed, Chromatics is the piece on the chessboard that always felt best fitting for live performances. Their last album, Night Drive, came out five years ago and following the success of their appearance on Drive’s soundtrack, which was heavily influenced by Night Drive, the band is back with a new record Kill For Love. But don’t assume that it’s a quick cash in on the Drive success. In fact, albums of this quality take longer to make than it takes to shoot a movie.
Just like everything related to Jewel, Kill For Love is an extremely long record. The digital version that has an extra track tacked on the end lasts a whooping 91 minutes, quite a mammoth considering that Kill For Love is not some sort of an experimental drone record. Even more so than it was the case with Night Drive, Kill For Love deals in pop music that is driven by atmosphere rather than clever instrumentation or flashy lyrics. It obviously takes a lot for the synth boom of the 80s but cleverly combines it with the post-punk era darkness of the late 70s turning their sound into a collage of sound that is expansive, yet singular. Not to take anything away from the way that the album is arranged. Every detail is polished and the record feels carefully crafted without being too polished. For the first time it’s clear that Jewel is not afraid to write a bonafide pop hit. The title track here is four minute long pop gem that combines euphoria with drear while painting a picture that feels perfect to sing along to at shows, dance to at clubs and listen to on headphones at night. Kill For Love offers a good amount of short pop songs and they are all varied, interesting and ambitiously produced.
All of that said, this wouldn’t be a Chromatics record if we didn’t find some really long instrumentals. The best ones sound even more claustrophobic than the stuff on Night Drive. The eight and a half minute These Streets Will Never Look The Same, with it’s drowsy italo disco beat that slowly deteriorates from the glittery into the nocturnal shows how much the band has improved in making a long track that doesn’t get monotonous. That said, there are few tracks on here that feel like they stick a bit too close to the cinematic which makes them feel like leftovers from Symmetry’s album. Broken Mirrors and The Eleventh Hour with one of the slower pop tracks - Candy in between show Chromatics at their most restrained and inwards looking which is exactly what makes around a quarter of Kill For Love more like a background music rather than the pop brilliance of title track, Into The Dark and Lady and even the longwinded passage-like songs like the aftermentioned These Streets Will Never Look The Same or the physical version closer - The River. All of this gives Kill For Love feeling of another soundtrack rather than a mere collection of songs. A very unique way to approach the album format, the way that even the filler-like tracks feel like they have a place. Production, songwriting and sequencing; Kill For Love stands in its own dark shadow removed from the rest of contemporary music, indie or not.
There’s a reason why Johnny Jewel is becoming one of the best producers in the world. It’s because he knows that there’s more to pop music than just repetitive lyrics and familiar chord sequences. He fills his music with atmosphere missing from so many dry synth records nowadays. Kill For Love features vinyl crackles throughout the LP but instead of it being here for nostalgic value, it adds another layer of darkness to a glittering album. Kill For Love’s opener Into The Black states that it’s better to burn out than to fade away, it’s only a shame that Chromatics refused to take their own advice as this could’ve been an instant classic if it was edited down. That said, it’s hard to find too many disposable tracks on here and even editing it down to 60 minutes is a gargantuan task when dealing with music of such quality. It might require a lot of patience to digest Kill For Love but when it all sinks in it easily stands out among there rest of his output and joins Glass Candy’s Beatbox as a truly essential noir-pop record of this millennium. When Symmetry’s album came out it was fair to predict that by the end of the year Jewel will be seen as a winner of 2012s alt electro-pop scene. What was harder to predict is that by April he’ll have a highest scoring BNM of the year and a Pulp support slot under his belt. With albums from Farah, Glass Candy and the second installment of After Dark coming later this year, it’s terrifying and even more exciting what the guy has ready up his sleeve.