The Kills - No Wow
If you think The Kills are a one trick pony based, perhaps understandably, on the nature of the debut long player Keep On Your Mean Side then prepare to be proved wrong. The Kills are about being ahead of their time and a quick re-listen to the aforementioned debut should confirm this. Hear the angular, dark, song structures, the catchy, repetitive, choruses and the sense of impending doom throughout? You can catch traces of this throughout many of the bands that followed in their wake. 'Keep On Your Mean Side' has never sounded more contemporary than it does now. So what of 'No Wow'?
It would have been easy to record another album like their debut but, to their eternal credit, they've gone down a darker avenue yet. This ain't the happy sound of 2005 - this is the sound of a band that inhabits an alternative universe in which Charles Manson really did join The Monkees -This is a sprawling monster from the sewers of New York and London. Stripped down and bare, the drum machine is still there but has become a totalitarian monster - the empty heart beat takes the centre stage and dominates. Guitar is regulated to the role of supporting actor with occasional noise bursts and effects. If you think guitar music is a dead art form, listen to what they've done with it on 'I Hate The Way You Love Pt1 + 2'; it's sort of familiar yet somehow twisted and on opener 'No Wow', it's there merely as a brooding, malevolent presence. On 'At The Back Of The Shell' it's there as a pure electric shock. You get the picture, right?
This drum machine fixation, then - Forthcoming single 'The Good Ones' (Feb 7th) will give some idea of what to expect - A twisted, bubbling, distorted version of 70's Disco as imagined by a raving psychopath. The albums electric root gives the whole thing a nihilistic, machine-like edge that utterly suits their style.
Lyrics have never been 'The Kills' strong point, but that's missing the point somewhat. It's a sort of Burroughs style exersise in cut-up and polemic going on here - a line like 'Lost a lot of blood and a lot of cool, cool, cool' from 'At The Back Of The Shell' sort of sums up the level. Indeed, that's such a good line it crops up again, and forms the centerpiece, on 'Sweet Cloud'. It's pitch black urban poetry set to cold pop music but only for the most part and this, in turn, makes the likes of 'Rodeo Town', with it's wistful, lilting feel stand out even more. There are occasional moments that are reminiscent of the first album, Like 'Love Is A Deserter', but make no mistake, this is not 'Keep On Your Mean Side' part 2 - if that album was a punch in the face, this one is a brain tumor.
There's even an ideology of sorts in operation. The title, 'No Wow' refers to the fact that, simply, music isn't as exciting as it used to be when compared with the early movements like punk. This is debatable, of course, and it's also debatable as to whether The Kills are the right band to put the 'wow' back into music. What they have done is made an album that sounds like nobody else and for that at least, they should be saluted and cheered from the rooftops. It's quite probable that not everyone will get it, but fuck ‘em - 'No Wow' is the first album of 2005 that's worth getting excited over.