As Wrongchilde’s debut album begins, it’s tempting to question whether a new project was really necessary for Mat Devine. Opening tracks “Birds of Prey” and “Just Call Me Crash” don’t sound a million miles away from the later recordings of his two-decades-old band Kill Hannah, but as Gold-Blooded progresses it becomes apparent that this is more than just a rebranding.
Devine’s vocals remain earnestly placid throughout, and whilst almost entirely devoid of any notable crescendo it is satisfying to hear his delivery of the important moments relying more on expression and instrumental support rather than just sheer volume.
The titular “Gold-blooded” hits us at the third track and acts as a perfect introduction to the album’s central portion: a collection of songs that fork away from the Kill Hannah sound and instead take us somewhere new via synth, sincere anthemics, and a substantial nod towards the glorious moments of 80’s pop-rock.
Indeed, in case we were in any doubt as to the influences, Pat Benatar’s 1983 hit “Love Is A Battlefield” shows up as a haunting cover featuring M83’s Morgan Kibby and then is immediately followed by “Dance To Your Heartbeat” – a duet with Sierra Kay Kusterbeck (VersaEmerge) that would provide the perfect soundtrack to any montage of an angst-ridden Molly Ringwald and chums. The key change towards the end does feel rather contrived, but it can’t be denied that it’s also rather befitting of the era it plucks its ideas from.
Speaking of angst, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way brings his vocals alongside Devine’s for the dark love song “Falling In Love With Kill You,” successfully creating a unique male combination on a set of lyrics you might normally expect to hear from a male/female pairing.
At times, Gold-Blooded comes across as tentatively transitional: a group of fresh, inspired tracks book-ended by a handful of songs that feel like a familiar safe-bet for fans of Devine’s previous incarnation (penultimate “Lace Up Your Boots” is a prime example). But even those few moments of creative habit do not pull Devine too far from where he is steering his new outing. As long as he avoids too much back-pedaling, Wrongchilde may prove to be the right direction.