The last time I heard The Kills was 2005’s No Wow which popped up on my radar and grabbed me with its dirty, minimalist swagger. I had apparently missed their first album, but it positioned them squarely with the equally squalling Raveonettes whose debut EP had surfaced about the same time as The Kills. The Kills seemed to be chasing minimalism down a dark hole – rough and dirty guitar with minimal percussion and melody. The detached lyricism was also part of its sexy charm and the record won me over, though it didn’t have a lot of staying power. I’d honestly largely forgotten about them. Now they resurface. The ensuing couple of years finds them in a similar boat – but not quite so dire. There’s a lot more fun in this album than there was in the past.
First, one thing I love about this band is their creative use of minimalism in percussion. If you’re going to strip a song down, the thing that always makes the song sound big is that beat. Take it down a notch, and you’ve got yourself a controlled reaction waiting to explode. All sorts of things – from handclaps to door slams to coughs to pots and pans to, well, handclaps again – dominate the rhythms of this record, in addition to the simple drum structures. Opener “U.R.A. Fever” is punctuated with dial tones and phone button bleeps. It builds slowly into a smoldering heap, leading perfectly into the more raucous “Cheap and Cheerful” which recalls Peaches at her best (minus the profuse sexuality). And yet despite these simple beats, the whole record carries a dance rhythm that is hard to ignore. I can’t imagine seeing The Kills perform this stuff live as being anything less than an out and out dance party.
Next, The Kills know how to craft appropriate length and how to place songs. Clocking in at under 35 minutes, the 12 songs move with a great sense of structure, with slow points adequately placed throughout the run time. “Black Balloon,” placed squarely in the center of the album, is a slow, hissing feeler that offers perfect respite between the pair of rave-ups, “Hook and Line” and “M.E.X.I.C.O.C.U.”
The album is kinetic and enjoyable, a more dynamic listen than their previous work, but still maintaining the general sound of their previous work. If you enjoyed No Wow, then you’ll enjoy Midnight Boom, but it does beg the question – will it be as easily forgotten? The Kills, while enjoyable, didn’t stick with me the first time. The dancier, more vibrant band that has appeared on this album may stand up a little better. But then again, it depends on what the band is going for. Purposeful disposability is an art form in itself, and from that perspective, The Kills are making some of the more fantastic trash-rock records of the 2000s. – j. neas
MP3: The Kills :: U.R.A. Fever
Amazon: The Kills – Midnight Boom