The Kills - Midnight Boom
Boy/girl, cross-atlantic duo the Kills - aka Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart - have been accused in the past of being just way too cool. While unfair to a degree (their previous two albums have spawned tracks as essential as No Wow), it is true that their 'monochrome chic' aesthetic and an affiliation with a certain Ms Moss have given them an achingly cool image that was in danger of overshadowing the music. Third album Midnight Boom is a dark and heady concoction intent on silencing the naysayers.
Opener URA Fever is a dark take on trip-hop that erases any lingering memories of Morcheeba, Mosshart and Hince whispering back and forth seductively before crunchy guitars lead us into a more recognisable garage-rock chorus. One says 'chorus' but what we have here is more a collection of vocal motifs, most of the tracks failing to outlasting three and, in some cases, two minutes. This short, sharp approach mostly works in their favour, distilling the initial idea and creating effective rhythms around it; see Cheap and Cheerful, which comes off as a jerky hip-hop/grunge hybrid with added playground handclaps thrown in for effect. The slick sheen can be attributed to Spank Rock's Armani XXXchange, who assisted with additional production, although enough rough edges remain intact to keep the duo's minimalist style in check.
Both Tape Song and Last Day of Magic infer a love of the Pixies, although Mosshart's vocal is more Frank Black than Kim Deal; on Tape Song, she sounds like a severely pissed-off Shirley Manson having a panic attack. The use of a drum machine gives the songs a cheap and trashy feel that aids Mosshart's sex-in-skinny-jeans role on enjoyably skimpy romps like Sour Cherry. Hince, while joining in on tracks like Getting Down, is best kept to providing the dirty guitars Mosshart smears herself around in.
Although its levity means Midnight Boom's twelve tracks could be confused as merely functional, music to simply stick on before you hit the depths of coolest Soho, the finale Goodnight Bad Morning is a cinematic detour into hazy shoe-gazing that proves they have sufficient substance. Like all great rock 'n' roll, Midnight Boom is a raw, sexy and sinister thing that will sound best when listened to at a disreputable establishment in the dead of night.