The online music press has been heaping a staggering amount of adoration upon Chromatics’ fourth release, Kill for Love. For the most part this obscene reverence has heightened the album to best of 2012 buzz, but some reviews, such as one appearing on British music site Drowned in Sound, have touted Kill for Love’s first few tracks as some of the most perfect, pristine snatches of sound one will ever hear, EVER. A review on the same site of Beach House’s recent release Bloom wrote off that album as being perfect for one thing: background noise. Reading these reviews made me wonder if there had been some sort of mix up at Drowned in Sound, because the former album could easily be viewed in the same manner as the latter, and the latter could be praised to high heaven in the same way as the former.Drumless, a version of Kill for Love with all drum sounds omitted, further makes this case.
Much has been made of Kill for Love’s length and purpose, how it unfolds like a soundtrack to a theoretical movie. Drumless disposes of this idea in two crucial ways: by cutting Kill for Love’s 90 minute running time down to 51 minutes and rearranging the track listing. Kill for Love’s ballsy move of opening with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My” (rechristened “Into the Black”) has been neutered in the sense that Drumless opens with the more accessible “The Page”. Thanks to these alterations, Drumless comes across as a version of Kill for Love that’s been censored and edited for basic cable television.
For Chromatics fans, and Kill for Love fans in particular, all the trappings of that album are mostly unscathed, just dressed down a touch. The (and I’m conceding here) infectious synth burbles that open the title track are still overbearingly catchy, and “Lady” still has a fine Italo-disco slickness to it. Lead vocalist Ruth Radelet’s vocals remain unobtrusive and bored; with Kill for Love’s bells and whistles taken away, her voice and mind still seem miles away from the fore.
Both Kill for Love and Drumless are gloriously ‘80’s, not just in sound but ambience. The coldness, soullessness, and synthetic connotations that decade conjures are all thriving here. More than any album this year, Kill for Love/Drumless feels like a time bomb of nostalgia. Primary Chromatics talent Johnny Jewel famously composed a soundtrack for last year’s Ryan Gosling feature Drive, only to have the whole thing scrapped. While that film’s eventual soundtrack and whole feel was undoubtedly ‘80’s, there was still something undeniable about it. Kill for Love or, more specifically, Drumless feels more suited for a less arthouse-leaning version of the film (and really, Drive wasn’t that arty to begin with). Drumless would be fine for brushing your teeth, scrubbing your floor, or similar routines and chores. If any number of the songs came on while you are out with girlfriends after a busy week at work, “Back from the Grave” or “At Your Door” would serve themselves well as spirit lifters and dance anthems. As far as entering the canon of the ‘00s greatest releases, however, skepticism runs high. If you lead a busy life and need a good zoning out buddy, then Johnny Jewel could be your new best friend.