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Kill It Kid: You Owe Nothing

British ‘new blues’ rockers live up to their potential on excellent third album.

We won’t wait to say it: this is great. Hitherto billed as ‘blues rock upstarts’, Kill It Kid have interpreted the genre a little differently this time – moving on from Black Keys comparisons and blending the primal soul of the blues into bitingly passionate, contemporary strokes.

The story so far: Kill It Kid sprung to life in 2008, when Bath-based Chris Turpin (vocals/guitar) and Stephanie Ward (vocals/keys) became friends over a shared love of early blues greats. Having assembled a band nucleus, they found themselves being guinea pigs for a visiting John Parrish (PJ Harvey producer) – demonstrating his skills to Bath University students. The resulting EP aroused label interest, their violin-infused ‘new blues-rock’ debut was cut in 2009 with Foo Fighters man Ryan Hadlock, and second LP Fall Feet Heavy followed in 2011, armed with crackly Deep South recordings (minus the folky strings). Critical acclaim flowed enthusiastically.

All of which showed ample promise. Heck, it showed more than promise, through skilled chops and a sophisticated ear for melody. You Owe Nothing, however, is the sound of Kill It Kid capitalising on their potential and becoming a first-class band. Previously worn-on-the-sleeve blues influences are now streamlined into a modern rock’n’roll package. Prettier sensibilities have given way to a stripped back, yet very sophisticated rock stance. Where violin strains and sweet (if slightly contrived) vocals once prevailed, we now have cooler, fuzzier riffs, a hardened, mightier rhythm section and infinitely tighter tunes.

Opener Black It Out grabs you by the throat with its heavy, subtly sexy urgency. A cracking start, followed by the ante-upping likes of Sick Case Of Loving You – catapulting the band over the ‘decent’ line, into ‘Oh fuck yes!’ territory.

Crucially, something has gone very right with Turpin’s voice; already distinctive, it’s now fearless and decidedly freer. Ward provides the perfect counteract – taking sultry lead vocal duties in the smouldering, groovy likes of Blood Stop And Run. It’s not all distortion and gut-pounding hooks, however. In Caroline they have a mature, soulful ballad that could have easily been written by musicians twice their age. Hurts To Be Loved By You is similarly heart-wrenching, and suggestive of an arena-filling, TV-seasoned act.

Worldly, original yet very singalong-friendly stuff, nodding more to Royal Blood (albeit in a more textured way) than ye olde blues ladies and gents. Vital shades of rock’n’roll, beautifully executed – one of the strongest albums of the year./o:p

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.