The Kills are known for producing records angularly hung around cocky, cool, 'couldn't-care-less-could-I' sentiment. In the past, they've always managed not to fall the boring, blokey side of swaggering by virtue of the presence of an underlying tension in all of their work. A nod to camera. A singular exhale caught by the mic after a particularly well-crafted verse. Just a hint of struggle and vulnerability that made their showboating seem defensive rather than smug. It's a truth often repeated that the Indy-Rock listening public love an underdog. For years, the paranoia evident behind The Kills' posturing managed to keep them seen as one.

I went into Ash and Ice looking again for their trademark tension, and I didn't find it. Instead, I found studied detachment. The lyrics felt a lot like answers I would give if asked how I was doing by a relative I wasn't in the mood to talk to, just presented a bit more poetically. A little light reassurance that my life is cool, minimal emotional involvement. To the detriment of their work, The Kills seem to have finally succeeded in being too in control for accidental vulnerability. My inkling is that in the context of this album, lines like Jame Hince's brag on track 'Siberian Nights' that "I can make you cum in threes," are more likely to elicit an eye roll than a fist pump.

Mosshart tells us that the title Ash and Ice came from Hince; "I guess he was sitting at some bar or some party or someone's house. People were ashing into a glass of ice, that end of the night thing." Having a last cigarette before going home isn't ill-fit as a reference point for this feel of this work. It seems comfortable. It knows its limits and it doesn't exceed them. This is not to say that this is a boring album: it's not. There are a few truly memorable riffs, notably on 'Hum for your Buzz' and 'Bitter Fruit', it's just that overall, this music feels that bit too slick to deliver the 'unease' and 'winking ennui' that the record label copy promised. Far from taught thrills, I found this easy listening.