Ash & Ice, The Kills’s fifth LP, is softer than other records, offering a somewhat rolling tone throughout; it lacks any real diversity among its pace. That observation doesn’t innately mean the music is bad — it isn’t. However, it’s less interesting than the duo’s previous albums.
The album peaks with the first track, lead single “Doing It To Death.” It offers an instantly welcoming beat and the choruses build with inflection to the climactic declaration: “We’re doing it to death,” followed by a series of “oh” s.
The following 12 songs aren’t bad — there are some solid, mid-tempo rock tracks — but once the album is over, most of the titles seem unfamiliar. The album, at multiple points, feels like one long song, save for a few sparkling moments of lo-fi, garage punk genius and memorable tracks.
“Heart of a Dog” features Alison Mosshart singing an extended metaphor, comparing her love life and a dog, and it’s as boring as it sounds. Resting on the same guitar rhythm through its entirety, the nearly four-minute track manages to throw a wrench in the album’s pace. “Hard Habit To Break” and “Bitter Fruit” offer slightly more dynamic beats, but, in the same vain as “Heart Of A Dog,” the same rhythms play over and over again without a sufficient amount of differentiation. The only exception is a set of screaming guitar riffs in the former.
“Hum For Your Buzz” and “Siberian Nights” define the middle of the album. The former’s bluesy guitar and Mosshart’s vocal delivery are two of the LP’s strongest aspects. The quiet clicking with which it fades out offers an apt intro to the initially startling synths of “Siberian Nights,” which ultimately find themselves layered beneath guitars, taming their horror movie title screen-esque sound. On “Siberian Nights,” the chorus is less a lyrical concept as much as it is an instrumental one. The catchiness isn’t reliant on Mosshart’s vocals — although the lyric, “For the cruel youth, I’ve got a love,” could be grounds for disagreement. “Siberian Nights” leaves the listener with a duh-duh-dun-duh guitar chord progression imprinted as strongly as the catchiest of lyrics.
Following “Siberian Nights,” the remainder of the album is mostly throwaway tracks: “That Love” is slow, which isn’t its crime. Its crime is placing all of its focus on lyrics that don’t maintain any level of attention; “Impossible Tracks” has hope with its darker, grunge sound, but after its initial freshness, it’s sonically repetitive; and “Echo Home” is a somber, inferior rehash of “Baby Says,” one of the best tracks from the Band’s previous LP Blood Pressures.
Ash & Ice does pick itself up for the final song: “Whirling Eye.” The track features a more dynamic beat, combining both Jamie Hince’s guitar riff and a repeated “uh oh uh oh” by Mosshart. The track builds to a rather stunning finale, complete with vibrating echoes of guitar and the loose, flowing delivery of “Whirling, whirling whirling / Eye, eye, eye” before the final “Get the vision, c’mon” ends on a final vibrato.
While not The Kills’ strongest showing, Ash & Ice, has a few tracks that will be long remembered in The Kills’ varied discography. Ash & Ice has a rolling sound throughout that lends itself a brooding, smoking-a-cigarette-in-the-harsh-sunlight vibe — sometimes interesting, dynamic and edgy, but sometimes it's just ready for something else.