As live shows go, I must admit I was especially excited for this one. I hadn’t seen Chromatics since Benicassim Festival back in 2008, after their first record Night Drive in 2007, and nor had anyone heard much from them. Apart from the occasional appearance on compilations, such as the Italians Do It Better label compilation and most notably on the Drive soundtrack, it almost felt like a long band hiatus. That is until last November, when new audio videos appeared in drips and drabs on Youtube, rough demo versions of untiled tracks, which looking back was something of an luring aperitif for what would be one of the stand out albums of 2012 thus far.
In March, Chromatics released their first full length for nearly 5 years. The dark yet romantically titled album, Kill For Love, inimitably sums up the music on the record; classy and evocative, melancholy and animated, ethereal yet sparse and at moments almost lonely. There are five instrumental tracks out of sixteen on the album, which makes it a good twelve minutes over the ‘dangerous’ hour mark, yet they serve to give the listener breathing space between the more catchy and ultimately accessible synth pop gems of which Kill For Love is peppered with. You could be forgiven for thinking that any record over an hour would test your patience, I will forgive you, and believe me it doesn’t, but not for thinking that it isn’t a brilliant and unique example of contemporary synth pop/disco-punk, because it is. No one ‘does it’ quite like Chromatics ‘do it’.
It was their first London date for a number of years and the first UK appearance of their comprehensive European tour. The small, seedy but stylish space that is Madame JoJo’s seemed like the perfect surroundings for an intimate unveiling of the new record and as the lights dimmed, apart from the twinkling LEDs on the curtain behind the stage, Chromatics entered one by one to the beat of their drum. When Ruth Radelet finally joined the rest of the band onstage, the crowd cheered and hushed almost as instantly as the band began with the opening track from the album, a daring, glistening synth pop rendition of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)”. They continued effortlessly into “The Page”, “Lady” and “Kill For Love”, barely giving the audience a chance to take stock and appreciate through applause. They played a few tracks from Night Drive and to my delight their rendition of Kate Bush’s classic “Running Up That Hill”, but stuck mostly to their recent effort. It was a stylish and near perfect performance, yet at times they seemed unimpressed with the crowd, who bar the first couple of rows of which I was a member, were as static as Ruth Radelet’s smoldering, expressionless lips.
Chromatics had flown straight from Primavera Festival in Barcelona and were probably relying on the crowd for a pick me up, which they certainly did not get past the third row. The reason for the lack of crowd participation is beyond me because Chromatics sparkled through out. I was lucky enough to catch them again the very next night supporting Neon Indian at the Village Underground. Village Underground crowd, you smashed the Madame JoJo’s crowd.
Kill For Love is out now via Italians Do It Better. http://vivaitalians.blogspot.co.uk/