Review: The Kills Return After Seven Years With the Relentless ‘God Games’

The Kills
God Games
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

It typically takes The Kills—the duo of singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist/keyboardist Jamie Hince—about three years between albums. But this one, with the pandemic slowing down the process, took a full seven to appear. That’s too long for any band trying to generate momentum in the marketplace. But it shows that the twosome won’t release music that doesn’t meet, or exceed, the standards set by their previous five titles.

Push play and strap in as “New York,” with its combination of stuttering electronic percussion, thundering pulsating bass, and a guitar riff Jimmy Page would envy, explodes with the swagger and constricted power that seven years away from the studio likely created. While none of the following eleven selections resounds with that pummeling authority and bluster, The Kills prove that the time off hasn’t dulled their artistic edge. Rather it has been sharpened as Mosshart began composing on a cheap keyboard and Hince wrote on piano instead of guitar.

“I was initially going to do a side project because I wanted to make music that wasn’t like The Kills. We quickly realized it was The Kills,” explains Hince in the pre-release notes. The emphasis away from guitar and to percussive programming is evident, especially when both Hince and drummer Paul Epworth are jointly credited with creating those sounds. Songs such as “Love and Tenderness,” “103” (“a dark and twisted love song” inspired by the summer heat), and the eerie, spectral title track are dominated by their thumping rhythms. Some don’t even feature Hince’s guitar, which further delineates how this disc has shifted away from the twosome’s previous work.

But it’s still Mosshart’s strident voice—a combination of Siouxie Sioux, Debbie Harry, and Chrissie Hynde—that grabs the spotlight. She’s on fire throughout, but really turns on the heat for “Bullet Sound” as she spits/sings The way you’re looking at me / What kind of killer are you? / What kind of love is yours I’m happy to die for? while Hince does his best Jack White fuzzed-out guitar-inspired work.

There are occasional lighter moments such as the clickety-click beats underpinning “Going to Heaven.” But mostly The Kills stick with a darker, more ominous sound emphasized by Hince’s tough, sometimes even tortured guitar work (evident in the gospel-infused psychedelic ballad “LA Hex”) and Mosshart’s committed, compelling vocals.

It makes for an intense, generally unrelenting forty-minute project; one that pushes The Kills into fresh musical territory, extending and altering the sound they have cultivated for the past twenty years without selling out.       

Photo by Myles Hendrik / Courtesy TCB PR

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