All These New Chromatics Videos Are Bumming Me Out, Weirdly

02/17/2012 2:20 PM |


Serving a duel role as this publication’s resident Northwestern transplant and synth-pop/disco enthusiast, one of my most anticipated early 2012 records has been Chromatics’ Kill For Love. Its release date is sort of mysterious, actually, perpetually “due out soon.” They’ve been noncommital even as promo videos keep rolling out. Which is odd.

Any moment should theoretically be a good one for the release, given that producer Johnny Jewel’s icy, slow-motion Italo-disco sound was so beloved as part of, and grander inspiration for, the Drive soundtrack. As you may have read, Jewel was originally hired to make the whole soundtrack but the producers eventually went with veteran composer Cliff Martinez’ version. (Jewel’s pristine vision lives on, with the recently released Symmetry.) But still, thanks to Gosling, moony looks, head-stomps, and scorpions there’s a new awareness and appetite for this stuff, perhaps above and beyond one that may have existed while Jersey label Italians Do It Better was on its epic 2007 hot streak. (What a hot streak! The After Dark compilation, Glass Candy’s B/E/A/T/B/O/X, and Chromatics’ Night Drive are all so rad.)

So while I’m still eager to fall for Kill For Love, whenever it ends up being ready, these videos meant to keep appetites whetted are actually kind of harshing my buzz. Let’s examine…

“Kill For Love”

The first, for title track “Kill For Love,” has been around since last fall. And so far, so good. Studiously attempting to look like 70s tour film is not a bold artistic vision, exactly, but it undeniably fits the band’s mood. And Ruth Radelet’s lyrical wink at her own pilled-out pop persona (“I take a pill almost every night…”) sounds so sadly self-aware that it truly gets to me. So, OK.

“Into the Black”

Earlier this week, though, the band dropped a second clip for album-opening Neil Young cover “Into the Black.” While people unfamiliar with the band might see this as a strange disco cover choice, it’s actually a little too pat for a group who’ve previously done this trick TWICE with both Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. Both of those were great (I have never and will never refer to anything else Springsteen-related as “sexy”). Hell, this Neil Young version sounds pretty good too. But it’s becoming way too easy to identify slinky covers of 70s and 80s rock songs as “what Chromatics do.” So, listening to it, seeing “Kill for Love” director Alberto Rossini go again to the porn-y soft-focus film look, it’s just too predictable.


Which brings us to this morning’s released video for “Lady,” which is again, exactly the same. There’s owning an aesthetic and then there’s treading water. Still waiting for this mysterious record to drop, I’m sad to report this glut of lock-step visual promotion feeling like the latter. With every new video, it’s like I’ve already seen it, instantly. Worse, the pervasive sameness is making me suspect I’ve heard this exact record before, even though I liked it a lot the first time. (And, yes, there’s a similar joke to be made here about Giorgio Moroder and IDIB’s Class of 2007, but let’s acknowledge it and try to move on.) As opposed to artistic progression on a bigger stage, will Kill For Love just be a repeat statement for Drive nerds who weren’t ready to listen 5 years ago? I really hope not, but I will let you know.

Follow Jeff on Twitter, if you want to, @jeff_klingman

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