On the Chromatics’ latest release Kill For Love, producer Johnny Jewel crafts a record of cinematic scope and splendor. The sprawling 90-minute record is the Portland-based group’s fourth LP and their second after switching styles from chaotic noise punk to slow-burning synth-pop.
The album leads off with a heart-rending rendition of Neil Young’s personal meditation, “Into the Black.” The most rock-leaning track on Kill For Love, the Chromatics’ beautifully spare guitar heightens Young’s lyrical richness. The indelible line, “It’s better to burn out / than to fade away,” quoted by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note, sets the stage for the album’s somber thematic arc.
The title track “Kill for Love” is mellifluous with a driving drumbeat, and the lavish synth waves accentuate Ruth Radelet’s vocals, which blur the line between nonchalance and pathos. “Running from the Sun” has “Beth/Rest”-like crooning coupled with an omnipresent, simplistic piano line. The song eventually develops into the haze of analog that dominates the second half of the album. The penultimate track “The River” and the 14-minute album-closer “No Heaven” make for a forlorn and enthralling end, letting us come down gently off our auditory high.
Ultimately, the record’s wavelike progression is one of its most entrancing qualities. There are succulent synth-pop anthems followed by soothing instrumental interludes. However, its ebbs and flows build to a substantial whole. Although it’s April, Kill For Love has established itself as a contender for album-of-the-year. Its standout tracks—“Into the Black,” “Kill for Love,” “Lady,” “Candy” and “The River”—capture the repressed sensual energy of great understated cinema.