In Blood Pressures, the Kills’ swaggering fourth album, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince deal in darkness. The band finds itself in a mechanized thumping middle ground between the all-out glory of the blues and the moodiness of post-punk. Most songs are loping, piston-like constructions, filled with pounding drums, fuzz bass, layers of Hince’s guitar—he has the chugging distortion, the shimmering stalled-engine distortion and the kind of distortion that sounds like Robocop coughing—and Mosshart’s snarling vocals.
The album dishes a lot of attitude. On fuck-yous like “DNA,” a bluesy riff sets the mood at smirking-ly urgent, and Mosshart sings monoliths like “When it came to pass, glory passed me by.” Mosshart moves from declamatory to aggressive to the menacing sultriness she did so well with in the Dead Weather. Even when Mosshart steps to the spotlight during “Last Goodbye,” ostensibly a vulnerable track, she exudes a steely weariness resembling a wounded lioness rather than a jilted lover. That makes her even cooler—even when she tries to be vulnerable, she can’t help but be awesome.
In fact, the one all-out vulnerable track is Hince’s short solo ballad “Wild Charms,” which resembles a punch-drunk Brian Eno singing Billy Joel. It’s over before it begins, but it’s refreshingly open, something Mosshart is not. Mosshart responds to heartbreak by fashioning herself as an ice queen, a product of the machinery that drives the music. Her cold-blooded style meshes well with Hince’s clanging guitars and the sleek world they have created inside of Blood Pressures.