By Patrick Cavanaugh, Features Editor
Few bands change as drastically as Chromatics has in its career. After their first release, a punk album called Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz, Chromatics underwent some serious line-up changes, losing all members save one.
But this setback ended up working in the band’s favor. Nine years after they debuted as an underwhelming punk act, Chromatics, with the help of new members, have molded themselves into one of the most interesting, dark and atmospheric synthpop acts around.
Their latest album, Kill for Love, represents the culmination of the band’s transformation. With 17 songs and over 90 minutes of music, Kill for Love almost overwhelms listeners with its depth and unmistakable “cool” factor.
The album opens with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My,” which they simply call “Into the Black.” At first I questioned the decision to start an album with a cover, but now I can’t think of a better opener for the album.
“Into the Black” embodies Kill for Love’s unique blend of ’70s nostalgia and brooding synths.
Kill for Love’s title track easily stands out as the album’s best song. The song quietly builds tension with soft synths and reverberating guitar chords, with lead singer Ruth Radelet’s cryptic vocals echoing throughout.
But once Radelet sings the line “I killed for love,” the song explodes with glistening synthpop production and soaring guitars. The band’s patient build has an enormous pay-off on “Kill for Love,” making it one of the most refined songs of the year so far.
Kill for Love takes its greatest strength from these slow builds. Chromatics exhibit an admirable amount of restraint throughout the album, allowing their songs to grow organically.
The album’s pacing feels natural and smooth. Listening to Kill for Love is like taking a night-drive through long, empty roads, peacefully following the path through its slight hills and valleys.
Chromatics showcase this style best on the moody “These Streets Will Never Look the Same.” At eight and a half minutes long, the song threatens to bore the listener. But it never does.
The band expertly builds on the song’s muted guitar and steady bass drum with increasingly lively piano and synth lines. They gradually craft an atmosphere that holds the listener’s attention throughout the song’s duration.
The seven minute long “Broken Mirrors” features dark, ambient synths for its first half before throwing subtle percussion and bass into the mixture. The song builds until its end, at which point the album seamlessly transitions to the more melodic, poppy “Candy.”
Chromatics could have easily ditched the long, atmospheric tracks and released an album made of synthpop treats, considering the album is full of them, but they would have sacrificed what makes Kill for Love so special.
Journeying through slow-burners like “Broken Mirrors” to reach the album’s polished synthpop tracks is greatly rewarding. Each track compliments the one that follows it. Nothing feels forced.
That being said, Chromatics’ long builds require the listener to be as patient as the band. But if you’re willing to let Kill for Love slowly wash over you, you’ll be thankful you did