The Kills No Wow

[Domino; 2005]

Styles: minimal rock
Others: Suicide, Jesus & Mary Chain, PJ Harvey

There's no doubt The Kills have got the wasted rock 'n roll look down to a tee. Skinny, good-looking, clad in black, and armed with a thousand yard stare, they are the epitome of cool, a Bonnie and Clyde for the wasted generation. Appearance seems to count for more these days than ever in the world of 'alternative' music. This is exemplified by the surprise which greeted the "ordinariness" of The Pixies appearance in some reviews of their recent live gigs (although it has to be said that reconciling that band's otherworldly noise with the looks of a bunch of cool teachers can be a bit of a headfuck).

Perhaps The Kills dress the way they do to reinforce their rock credentials. Fortunately, they don't go for the straight ahead puritanical blues rock sound peddled by certain other retro merchants. Instead we get a twin guitar rumble backed by minimal percussion courtesy of a metronomic drum machine. It's very much a minimal sound, dark and claustrophobic. Occasionally a few shafts of light break through, such as the coda to "I Hate The Way You Love," where soulful boy-girl harmonies lilt over a backdrop of feedback straight out of the Reid brothers' handbook. Otherwise, there's no doubt these are tough people with tough attitude to match.

The sparse percussion and repetitive riffs employed on No Wow recall the edgy sound of Alan Vega's Suicide, the key difference being the languid vocals of VV (Alison), reminiscent of a more languid PJ Harvey. It's a distinctive sound which works well on a number of tracks. The incessant riffs on "I Hate The Way You Love" build up the tension until the release of the aforementioned coda. Breathe out. "Love Is A Deserter" is the most danceable track and the obvious single, although it would require a strange kind of shuffle which might attract suspicious glances from the indie kids gathered round the dancefloor. Hotel (Jamie) gets a vocal turn on "Murdermile" as the he complains to VV that she's got him on the wrong tracks. I'm sure his mother must have warned him about girls like that. This track also feels like it's got more heart in it than some of the others.

One criticism of The Kills is that their stance can feel like a bit of a pose; sometimes it feels like there's a hole where the soul should be. The tracks can also sound a tad too similar, such is the niche they've carved out. As if to counter these criticisms, the album ends with "Ticket Man," a beautifully resonating piano providing the background for VV's heartfelt vocals. If they forget the cool, the next album could be great.

1. No Wow
2. Love Is A Deserter
3. Dead Road 7
4. The Good Ones
5. I Hate The Way You Love
6. I Hate The Way You Love Part 2
7. At The Back Of The Shell
8. Sweet Cloud
9. Rodeo Town
10. Murdermile
11. Ticket Man

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