|NEVER HEARD THE KILLS? TURN AROUND. THAT'S THEM FUCKING YOU IN THE ASS RIGHT NOW.|
|By Mike Bruno||
The Kills are what wanting to fuck sounds like: sleazy, primal and all-consuming.
With bluesy drop-D power chords and nasty rock chick snarls, they grab you by the hair, yank you to the floor and smear attitude across your face. Life outside the sweaty confines of a Kills show ceases to exist for 45 minutes, and when you walk back out to the real world, at least for the rest of the night, other music sounds like a hollow, superfluous façade.
This US-UK duo recently took their aural sex show to Brooklyn's Southpaw in support of their debut LP, "Keep On Your Mean Side." After successfully creating a buzz in ultra-cool rock circles on both sides of the pond by touting a punk rock credo that claims to reject any actual intention of creating a buzz, the real question was whether these two are really
doing something new and refreshing with their minimalist stomps, or if they're simply another fleeting pair of self-righteous punk rock clichés who like to spout off about how rock 'n' roll will never again touch upon the greatness captured on "Exile on Main Street."
The Kills are cute, waify vocalist Alison Mosshart, who goes by the moniker "VV" for reasons unexplained, and pale, gangly guitarist/vocalist Jamie Hince, who also goes by "Hotel". They perform side-by-side on a barren stage with the beats played by a preprogrammed drum machine. It doesn't sound electronic, funky or futuristic -- just basic and hard, which is what these two are all about. They piss on everything commercial, gaudy and fake in rock music and attempt to create an unadulterated "fuck you" with rock n roll that stops where most music is just getting started.
After just one album, there is no doubt that The Kills have discovered something compelling with their brash little experiment. No drums, no bass, no keyboards, no flash, no between-song banter -- it is a stripped down reinvention of rock-n-roll, and it's the sexy sound of not giving a fuck about what a rock set is "supposed" to be, yet clearly knowing exactly what it's supposed to feel like.
They do a good job reproducing in their live set the 12-bar boogie swagger of "Keep on Your Mean Side." Hince stands tall and stiff, maintaining a slick, cool British rocker demeanor while chugging out a flurry of bluesy guitar riffs, while Mosshart belts out lyrics in a wail reminiscent, if not stolen from, PJ Harvey and Chrissie Hynde. There are a few slower, droning tracks that suggest a psychedelic Velvet Underground sound, but mostly The Kills are interested in nailing down a nasty groove and turning it up so loud that it vibrates your genitals.
Mosshart, who previously sang in the Florida pop punk band The Discount, was either stoned out of her gourd or pretending to be. It's rumored that at past performances she's been known to stop in the middle of the set, walk over to the side of the stage and puke, putting an end to any doubts. I, unfortunately, was not treated to such a performance.
They started the show with "Superstition," which is also the LP's first song. Hince coolly filled the club with a fat distorted riff, opening the room for Mosshart to seethe a sexy, soulful melody, which she did while wildly stomping her feet, flailing her tattooed arms and writhing her thin, lanky torso like a hapless Tourette's patient. About halfway through the song, Mosshart's straight, greasy hair draped into her face, concealing her glossy eyes and puffy, red, girlish face for the rest of the show. Then, leading into the bridge, with Hince playing a driving series of rapid-fire chords, she let out a long, wretched screech that made everyone in the room wince in pain.
It was at that moment that I decided that this chick is the coolest piece of misfit trash to rock my world since Nashville Pussy's Corey Parks spit a loogey on me at a show in Columbia, Missouri.
By trashy cool, I don't mean sleazy showboating, a la Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or the tit-flashing exhibitionism of Courtney Love. Mosshart rarely seemed conscious of the audience at all. The only eye contact that did manage to fight its way out from behind her mop of hair were a number of severe fixations on Hince, which understandably fueled gossip that the two are a "romantic" item. It feels like you've been invited into The Kills' dank basement to watch them shoot up, concoct guitar riffs and eventually have untamed, semi-conscious sex. When Hince slithers across the stage and buries his pasty, sweat soaked face in Mosshart's soft, delicate neck, it's a little bit like watching your little sister get molested by her creepy drug dealer, and it's a damn hard thing to take your eyes off.
Of course it's possible that these two aren't getting it on at all and that their on-stage fixation on each other is simply a result of the intimate song writing process that created the band in the first place. The Kills formed a couple years ago, following the breakup of The Discount. Mosshart and Hince were sharing tapes back and forth across the Atlantic for about six months when Mosshart eventually decided to move overseas to London so that the two could record.
Apparently they decided that they didn't want to allow anyone else to fuck up the perfection they'd stumbled upon, so they decided to leave the project as a duo with a drum machine to keep the beat. They released the "Black Rooster" EP on Dim Mak in 2002, and "Keep on Your Mean Side" came out on Rough Trade this past April.
Because the music is so minimalist, the live performances don't vary tremendously from those on the records, and at times it does get a tad monotonous. Songs lacking the gritty funk that makes "Fried My Little Brains" irresistible or the cocky simplicity that makes "Cat's Claw" sound timeless tended to blend together. But The Kills didn't linger more than a few minutes on any one thing, presented more like a series of ideas than a string of songs.
The high point of the show was when Mosshart walked over to the two or
three drinks she had laid out for herself on the stage floor, took a sip
and then lit a cigarette in defiance of New York City's newly implemented
no-smoking law. Ridiculous rules like smoking bans in rock clubs are truly
meant to be broken (this is New York City, for chrissakes). It's possible
that she simply didn't know that New York even had such a stupid law,
but just the same, this subtle yet rebellious gesture created the perfect
The set ended as quickly as it started. There was no encore. Hince and
Mosshart quietly thanked the crowd with a wave and a nod, and then headed
backstage, presumably to drink, to smoke, to nod off, and to fuck the
dead corpse of rock and roll back to life.
Mike Bruno listens to The Kills a lot when he's alone, if you know what we mean. Last time out, he reviewed the latest from the White Stripes.