God Games by The Kills album review by Leslie Ken Chu for Northern Transmissions


God Games

The Kills

Despite naming their sixth album God Games, the Kills remain unrepentant. The English-American blues-garage duo don’t offer answers about life’s spiritual mysteries here. Nor do they even seek them. Singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince are cynical and mischievous.

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“The best man loses all his love and tenderness / … / Sweet dreams my ass / I want it back / All my love and tenderness,” she sings as the menacing “Love and Tenderness” plods along. And on the clopping “Going to Heaven,” she gives a heads up: “Be right back / I’m going to Heaven.” But then reveals her true intention: “Be right back / I’m gonna raise Hell.”

Though the Kills remain skeptical of a higher power on God Games, they acknowledge their mortality. “But for now, I’m on those middle-of-the-night vibes / Those singing-til-I-die- vibes,” Mosshart declares on the punch-drunk “My Girls My Girls” where she finds herself “clinging on for dear life / Like I know I should.” She reiterates her defiance on the midnight boom of “Wasterpiece”: “It’s not our time,” she repeats after boasting about being on “that high-on-life shit, that doin’-alright shit, I’m-on-fire shit.”

Mosshart’s self-awareness also comes through when she sings “Caught up in all of the drama and all of the fuss / … / I still got my ways, you know” on the weary “LA Hex.” Along with the choral vocals and clap-along on “My Girls My Girls,” “LA Hex” is the closest God Games comes to nodding at the sound of gospel music.

In a statement about God Games, Hince identified himself as an atheist. But noting his creative interest in exploring concepts of God, he explained: “I wanted to write a record of godless spirituals.” So when Mosshart sings “Better days / Baby don’t go lookin’ / Just let it play out /… / Baby, we’ll find better days” on “Better Days,” a smoky track that conjures gunslingers at the end of their rope straggling into town, it’s not fate the Kills are banking on. “We” here implies agency—fate is in our own hands.

It’s no surprise that an album about godless spirituals namedrops New York and LA. Both cities are havens of idealism where searchers run to, in pursuit of fame, fortune, an identity. The freedom a wayward soul feels in discovering their individuality—or what they might think in that specific moment in time is their truth—is their salvation.

“New York” is a God Games standout. The song is skeletal yet bombastic—it’s easy to imagine it played by a marching band, blown up with brass and strings. Here, as with everywhere else, on God Games, the Kills sound intentional. Every melodic or discordant note feels deliberate, even necessary. Mosshart’s vocal range has grown more and more dynamic over the years. She can belt her guts out, but she’s just as arresting when she sings tenderly on songs like the piano-led “Blank.”

To call God Games a throwback record would be reductive. Instead, the Kills sound comfortable in the best way possible. They’ve harnessed their essence into a potent, focused album featuring their most cohesive theme yet. They’ve continued to find ways to stretch their gasoline-soaked rock music with new sounds and more expansive songwriting. Hince is still an atheist (Mosshart hasn’t stated her beliefs), but the Kills believe in themselves, and that fealty is all they’ve ever needed to bring them better and better days.

Pre-order God Games by The Kills HERE


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