Victims of fidgety attention spans and comparative criticism, The Kills may have managed to endure the unwarranted adversity that comes with being a guy-girl duo that makes fashionable bluesy break-beat rock. They provoke scorn with glamorous press photos stirring up sexual tension and cigarette addiction, but the music always seemed to fall below the image; that is until now… until the boom.
The Kills have no qualms with being fashionista rockers and in fact, seem to turn it against those who want to brush them aside as hollow glamour musicians (I found it rather easy myself). Midnight Boom ritually begs the ear to cast aside its infectious hand claps, pulsating beats and menacing riffs. It is an entire album, in which Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince dare us to despise them. “U.R. a Fever” makes absolutely no sense lyrically outside of the chants “I am a fever, I ain’t born typical,” but musically the bass drones heavy, guitar wails come in short chops and a dial tone mimics their “no one is home” typecast.
“Tape Song” is the first offering that does not rely on handclaps and dance driven percussion, but rather lets Mosshart use her voice as the primary weapon over a jittery metronome, as Hince’s guitar acts as a responder to her heavy breathing and refrains. Mosshart builds the tension as she sings with a blasé blah attitude, but as the hook crashes in she rouses herself to life with aching provocation.
To a fault, The Kills cannot let go of their urge to write arcane lyrics (“eat a clown / fall in love”… really?); they're too self-indulgent to excite a curiosity in me to weigh their words. On “What New York Used To Be” the duo takes a noteworthy jab at a city that may have outlived its cool, much like drugs, love and television. The words are focused, relying on the application of the phrase “What (insert commodity, emotion, state of being) used to be” as an abstract statement of the Big Apple’s current condition.
With an album as tantalizing as Midnight Boom under their ill-fitted leather belt, you still will never hear the phrase “The Kills are my favorite band;” nor am I demanding the payment of such respect. But, it needs to be noted that this album suggests a maturity that could easily go overlooked due to a lack of output since 2006. Perhaps they are victims of influence, or tormented by their cool, or scapegoats of the glorification of indie. The Kills came at a bad time, just when we decided to abandon commercial venues to build our own; just when we replaced our drum machines with live kits again; just when we required musicians to be influenced by Gregorian chamber music and perform like a Dadaist. The Kills attempted a reemergence from the rubble of post-punk.
As it would seem, The Kills could give a f— less about the current movement. Midnight Boom is the antithesis of a cool that has surpassed them; it is a call out to all of us, asking who the poseur is now? Who is really capitalizing on trends?