Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Italians Do It Better
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Synth Pop
I’m perched on the other side of hype and staring down Kill For Love’s long, magenta vista. It’s always an interesting trip when you take your time, the discourse slowing down, the songs still hanging like luminescent specks in the ever-increasing void. Honestly I’ve never read a thing about this record, and I’ve never regarded Chromatics as anything permanent.
Chromatics formed in the Pacific Northwest as a rickety no-wave band more than a decade ago, but re-emerged in the mid-2000s with a revamped lineup and a new sound that nicely coincided with a resurgence of interest in the slow, dreamy, not-always-Italian dance-pop subgenre known as Italo disco. As with other acts on New Jersey-based Italians Do It Better, a label co-founded by group mastermind Johnny Jewel, Chromatics didn't just incorporate the vocoders and vintage synth arpeggios of the turn-of-the-1980s originals, they added the brittle guitars, dubby reverb, and urban dread of post-punk. In the years since, the label's emphasis on grainy synths, smokey ambience, and analog-fetishizing textures became the M.O.
On Kill for Love, the Chromatics‘ fourth full-length in over a decade of making music, the Portland troupe carves out a 90-minute jaunt that seemingly soundtracks the seedy underbelly of a Western metropolis. Equal parts desolate, morose, post-apocalyptic, enigmatic, glowing, and radiant, the vintage cinematic sounds that emanate over its 17 tracks recall the early work of filmmaker/composer John Carpenter. That comparison isn’t too much of a stretch, either.
Fast forward. Pause. Rewind for five minutes. Stop. Fast forward some more... And so here we are, in a time defined as post-Drive, where the terms Drive-esque and Drivian are already driving me crazy; so I can’t imagine how maddening it must be for Italian’s Do It Better label co-founder Johnny ….
Chromatics are generally seen as another one of Johnny Jewel's gloomy disco-inspired bands on the Italians Do It Better label (which includes Glass Candy and Desire), even though he wasn't in the original lineup. While all the bands have their own variations on the sound, they share an affection for vintage Italo-disco synths, post-punk moodiness and ice-cold female vocalists. Critics have adored all his projects, but the big boost Chromatics got last year from their involvement in the Drive soundtrack means Kill For Love could reach a much larger audience.
There’s a good reason “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” is the final track on Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps: From the desolate title to the staggering outro guitar work to the vacant air of end-of-an-era doomsaying, it’s the kind of song that sucks the air out of the room. It’s such an iconic finale that Kurt Cobain, the architect of perhaps the most elaborately constructed death in rock history, used it to add a stamp of authenticity to his suicide note. In this context, Chromatics’ choice to open Kill for Love with a cover of the song seems like a band immediately shooting itself in the foot.
Kill for Love opens with the unlikeliest of covers—a watery, electronic take on Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." An allegory for what Young saw as his own growing irrelevance, the song spawned his most quoted lyric—"It's better to burn out than to fade away"—which is perhaps the saddest of rock 'n' roll credos (its appearance in Kurt Cobain's suicide note rendering it all the more tragic). Neither option—the burning nor the fading—is a particularly desirable one, but for all but the most fortunate of artists, they're two separate paths to the same inescapable reality. .
ChromaticsKill for Love[Italians Do It Better; 2012]By Cole Zercoe; April 5, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetChromatics - "Candy" With each passing year, almost like clockwork, an album arrives on the scene that reaffirms how important atmosphere can be in elevating a collection of songs from merely good to unforgettable. Records such as The xx’s self-titled debut, Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, and The Weeknd’s House of Balloons are works of a certain world and a certain mood – the sort of soundtracks perfectly suited for a 2am comedown or an all-night drive on vacant highways. They get under your skin and stay there, and no matter how strong the individual track-work, what ultimately becomes their defining characteristic is their overall tone – their inescapable sonic identity that places them at a level of artistry few records ever manage to successfully operate within.
A night drive might sprawl, but you wouldn’t call it baggy. Chromatics’ Kill For Love continues this shaped and shapely mood from 2007’s Night Drive, and further extends it to 90 minutes or so — but this doesn’t mean we find filler in place of (love) killer. Rather, the album takes shape as an automobile passenger who at times nearly drops off, but pleasantly, interspersed with periods of watching lights and scenery.
So, word is out. Thin White Duke and owner of “Best Secret Agent Name in Pop” Johnny Jewel had been one of music’s most treasured secrets. An enigmatic electro impresario behind not only Chromatics but the sweet Desire, the sick Glass Candy and co-founder of the Italians Do It Better label. This 88-key goldsmith had cut some of the finest diamond disco and emerald electronica around whilst steadily acquiring a devoted cult following.
True to form, Johnny Jewel, the quietly flamboyant nostalgist who turned Chromatics from punky Portland also-rans into a theoretical mix-tape of Italian House (the clue being in their label’s name) and New Wave (more specifically, early-to-mid period New Order), has once again put out a record of quite ridiculous length. While not as preposterous as last year's Symmetry, the record that was categorically-not-his-rejected-score-for-Drive-honest-*wink* which managed to overrun its cinematic inspiration by a good half an hour, the 90 minutes of Kill for Love does seem, to put it lightly, a bit much. That's not the only one of Jewel's bad habits to make itself immediately, obviously clear either.
Despite the ongoing output of his Italians Do It Better label, Johnny Jewel flipped into the mainstream with his contributions to the [i]Drive[/i] soundtrack. Pairing his airy, windswept atmospherics with Nicolas Winding Refn’s visuals created some truly cinematic moments. ‘Kill For Love’ keeps in this spirit, playing with the attention to detail of an art-house movie (and a near 1½-hour running time).
A movie-length fourth LP from the Oregon outfit, and little short of breathtaking. Alex Denney 2012 On 2007’s Night Drive album, Oregon outfit Chromatics’ jump from noisy no-wavers to synth-pop sophisticates was as bold as it was terrifically executed. What’s more, their svelte harking back to Giorgio Moroder and Arthur Russell prefigured the indie set’s move towards Sapphic electronic textures at the close of the decade, and helped make the Italians Do It Better label a going hipster concern.