Imagine a band with Jack White on guitar, Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as lead vocalist and Trent Reznor handling the songwriting duties. Now imagine instead of adding a real drummer they added a drum machine straight out of the post-punk movement. The Kills, being a two piece band and coming out just as The White Stripes were riding on a wave of unending compliments, will have the unfortunate problem of being labeled a rip-off. This, however, cannot be further from the truth. The Kills did debut at the frenzied height of the garage rock revival, when Rolling Stone and Q magazine were crowning The Hives and The White Stripes as the new kings of rock, but The Kills' sound is rooted in something much deeper than rehashed Rolling Stones and Kinks riffs. Sure there are guitar riffs abound in this album but The Kills reach for something darker; something hidden in the goth rock and post punk of the 80's. While these influences may not be as evident in The Kills as they are in other new bands such as Franz Ferdinand, the link is nevertheless there.
Take the opening track, No Wow, for example. It begins with an electronic drumbeat taken right out of an 80's synth band. While the other garage rock bands were opting for the dirtiest, loudest drums they could find, The Kills put together a sparse beat that compliments the sparse guitar. Another thing that takes them farther away from the garage rock moniker is their song structures. The Hives, The White Stripes, The Vines and Jet are all loud and don't care who hears them. They are true garage bands, sounding like teenagers who get together every weekend to play some loud kick-@$$ music, obviously with more melodic sense and ability however. The Kills songs sound more calculated. Many of them build up suspense that is never released, as if trying to tell the world they are not out to make mindlessly loud rock. Again this brings a few more "influences" to light. The female voice and garage rock mentality has been done before, most notably by PJ Harvey. Throw Yeah Yeah Yeahs into the mix and you have yourself a fair amount of female vocalists with similar voices playing similar music. This is where The Kills begin to sound stale. It's not the music itself, but the voice which sounds like its been done before, and yet it works. A good thing always gets repeated and, in the case of Alison's vocals, it is a good thing. Her anger clashes with Jamie's calm, almost mechanical vocals on songs such as Murdermile.
1. No Wow- An amazing song. It creates more tension than Jack White or Karen O. ever could. When it's finally released you're left with a satisfied feeling as if the outbreak was deserving of everything leading up to it. My only problem it is there is a little too much repetition at the end of the song. 5/5
2. Love is a Deserter- Another great song. This song places the band perfectly. It has the makings of an 80's pop song however the angry vocals and bluesy guitar riffs place it in its contemporary setting, next to the other garage bands of the time. 5/5
3. Dead Road 7- They manage to do it again. They keep the high tension of No Wow however in this case it is never really released. It keeps the relatively quiet demeanor of a post-punk song. 5/5
4. The Good Ones- Their so-called single off of the album. It has the catchiest riff on the album however it doesn't flow as well as the songs preceding it. Again, the loud anger hinted at in No Wow seems to have disappeared, replaced instead by the quiet hatred of someone keeping their feeling inside of them. 4/5
5. I Hate The Way You Love- One of the most "garage-like" songs on the album. Songs like this are the reason why they are lumped in with the others. Still, amazingly simple and raw. 4.5/5
6. I Hate The Way You Love Pt 2- Here is the turning point of the album. The first five songs represent the height of simplistic rock and roll of the new millennium. This song, however, is not really a song but merely a reinterpretation of the chorus of the last one, much like The White Stripes reinterpretation of the ending of “You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)" in their live shows. This does not need its own track and does not need to be counted as another song. 2/5
7. At The Back Of The Shell- This song starts out with a promising intro and even manages to go into a promising verse and first chorus. When it goes into pretty much the same verse and chorus again its initial promise starts to wane. Again, this song reveals the two-dimensional parts of The Kill's songwriting. Most of the song stays the same and ceases to be engaging about halfway through. They have some amazing songs that start to feel old way before they should. 3.5/5
8. Sweet Cloud- A weak point on the album. In my opinion some of the least thought provoking lyrics and no real hook to speak of or anything that might keep a listener's attention. 2.5/5
9. Rodeotown- The dip continues with this song. Not much to say about it except that it just bores me. 2/5
10. Murdermile- Finally a breath of air after being submerged in a pool of mediocrity for the past four songs. Jamie's voice is a welcome addition and again the sparseness of the song hits the listener but unlike the last few songs, this time it sticks. 4.5/5
11. Ticketman- This song sounds like a gimmick that gets old quick. The only thing that keeps me listening is the abrupt change of quality between the recording of this song and most of the others. Even though I know the lyrics are cheesy but I’m intrigued by it and can't stop listening, even when it feels like I've heard "to many tickets is the problem" more times than I'd care to. Fortunately it doesn't drag itself on for too long and brings to album to a quiet, but nevertheless resounding, close. 3.5/5
This could have easily become one of my favorite albums of he year, especially in the wake of poor showings from the likes of Coldplay, Dave Mathews Band, and Foo Fighters, however the second half of the album keeps it from being added to my "Albums to Take to a Deserted Island" list. Alison's bitter vocals are a relief from the sickeningly sweet wide-eyed innocent love of The White Stripes in songs such as "Fell In Love With a Girl" and "I Want to be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart". What was born in the opening track of No Wow and kept alive by the next few tracks ultimately died in the hands of the likes of "Pt. 2" and "Rodeo Town".