"Kill for Love." Chromatics. Portland, Ore.'s Chromatics started as a dank post-punk unit specializing in droning soundscapes with a lo-fi dingy appeal. On 2007's highly regarded "Night Drive," ringleader Johnny Jewel flipped the script with a much more lush and Eurocentric sound, pulling heavily from Italian disco and employing a neo-noir narrative concept.
Bringing female vocalist Ruth Radelet to the forefront with her understated, breathy pipes, Chromatics turned from fringe art-rockers to stately scene stealers. The band's popularity grew even further with Jewel's contributions to last year's Ryan Gosling vehicle "Drive," which coincided with the band releasing the 32-track instrumental leviathan "Symmetry" in December of last year.
Continuing that prolific streak, the band has released its latest full-length, "Kill for Love," to great acclaim. If "Night Drive" was the sound of musicians finding an exciting new territory, "Kill for Love" is the sound of them owning it. Starting off with a confident and regal cover of Neil Young's "Into the Black," Jewell's plaintive guitar provides a Sergio Leone-esque backdrop to Radelet's supine delivery.
"Kill for Love" is a huge, ambitious and long-winded album at 17 tracks, but in that duration the band sets a distinct cinematic feel that harks back to '80s soundtracks -- complete with epic riffs and surging synths -- and makes it sound seductive, chilling and not at all cheesy.
It's impressive that Jewel has chosen to mine a once-ridiculed genre (outside of ironic appreciation) and treats it with an intensely reverent ear, yet never loses the punk-ish throb that drives it. It's a deft technique that allows tracks like "The Page" and "Back From the Grave" to radiate something eerily familiar but entirely new.
"Kill for Love" is the type of album that should place Chromatics into a larger stratosphere. You could complain the band is more style over substance, but with production values this good and songs this refined, the proof is in the details.
Chromatics has honed its abilities to full capacity here, creating a gorgeously textured and fully realized work of a band that knows exactly what it's doing.