Monday, September 15, 2008

LB's Pick of the Week: The Kills

This week’s music pick is the new record from male/female duo The Kills, Midnight Boom. Their third record, Boom comes after an almost four year hiatus and sees them exploring new territory though they succeed in doing so without deviating from the drum machine backing two guitars and two voices formula that they so effectively exploited on their previous records. The new record demonstrates a pop sensibility that is new to The Kills but the intertwined and interplaying vocals retain the sense of sexual tension that has animated all their work. The partnership is a transatlantic one, pairing under the pseudonyms VV and Hotel, Florida’s Alison Mosshart with Britain’s Jamie Hince. Perhaps it is that origin in a separation that has allowed them to retain the paradoxical proximate distance. This stance has probably served them well as there is something almost unfinished sounding in the fairly bare productions and sounds that they use which compels you to listen more and listen closer. This is not to say that they are soft or quiet. In many ways this is the opposite of last week’s Cat Power recommendation. Alison’s voice is gruff and lived in and at times almost meets Jamie’s. Both the drum beats and the guitar sound are tweaked and distorted and processed creating interesting sounds without ever sucking the life from the riffs and beats. The album finds the band playing with sounds and stretching the boundaries of their sound.

The album opens with two killer tracks that are pretty close to classic Kills. “URA Fever” and “Cheap and Cheerful” are propelled by the solid, thumping beats and the buzz saw guitars that made No Wow and Keep On Your Meanside standout. Then with “Tape Song” we get something a little new. With a beat that almost sounds like it was taken from the Eurythmics, they launch into creeping lyrics and the guitars so ubiquitous in other spots come in spikes and accents. The album contains some songs that are almost danceable like “Getting Down” which its moaning and mouth-sound chorus. “Last Days of Magic” is dangerously close to being a pop song over top of its squealing. “Black Balloon” sounds like a lament and “What New York Used to Be” is the sort of nostalgia-tinged look at better times that should be more downbeat than is. Always a band that has thrived on their contradictions, the Kills have produced a record that sounds more put together and yet looser than previous efforts. They have, without compromising the sound that makes them as close to unique as you can get in the modern music landscape, made a record that is more fun to listen and more accessible than not only their previous efforts but also than the attempts bands who are trying to make this sort of sound popular.

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