Johnny Jewel, the moody auteur behind Chromatics (and the label Italians Do It Better) has a kindred spirit in the director Nicolas Winding Refn, who tapped Jewel to compose the soundtrack for his 2011 film Drive. Studio interference more or less scrapped the collaboration—only two previously released songs appear on the soundtrack—but with his latest Chromatics release, Jewel reversed the process, producing a score for a film that doesn’t exist. At 91 minutes, Kill For Love nearly matches Drive’s runtime, and aims for the same minimalist, clenched-jaw neo-noir vibe that Refn himself borrowed from Michael Mann and William Friedkin.
Jewel’s deep-seated flair for the dramatic shows through from the first moments of the album, a brooding cover of Neil Young’s epochal ode to burning out, “My My Hey Hey (Into The Black),” deadpanned by Ruth Radelet. The vibe of Kill suggests a predilection for the fading away option, however, its period-specific style suggesting a cast of characters endlessly adrift, their continued survival solely reliant on carefully maintaining an affected exterior. The cinematic synthesizer epics of Giorgio Moroder and John Carpenter provide Jewel’s foundation, out of which he contrives a fantasy world of empty 3 a.m. city streets, dudes in satin windbreakers piloting high-performance automobiles, and women bearing troublesome secrets behind icy, thousand-yard stares.
Kill is an ambitious work that provides all the thrills of hearing a film’s score before seeing the movie. Superficially, this is an exciting proposition, on par with M83’s pastel-hued channeling of John Hughes’ widescreen teen angst. But on Kill, the tracks blend together into a flat, echo-drenched concoction of Radelet’s blank Nico croon (particularly on “Candy” and “The Page,” the latter of which features the lyric “I wonder if I could be your mirror / and together we could crack and break forever”) and guitars borrowed from The Cure’s Disintegration (or, on “These Streets Will Never Look the Same,” from Stevie Nicks’ “Edge Of Seventeen”). The ambience is fine enough, but it’s probably worth just waiting for the movie.