Review Summary: Raw, dark and stripped to the bone – The Kills' “Midnight Boom” ain't born typical.
The Kills are Alison Mossheart and Jamie Hince. The guy/girl duo is a trend in rock that has been working with a great deal of success in recent past. Predating the The Ting Tings by a few years and several years newer than The White Stripes, The Kills offer a meaner, sharper and outright cooler flavor of rock than their current guy/girl counterparts. Rough and sleazy punk/blues with a programmed drum beat, Alison and Jamie bring more to the table with less than any band of this generation.
While they'll never escape comparisons to their closest musical relatives, The White Stripes, their sound is darker, grittier and even more lo-fi than Jack and Meg's. Their third album, Midnight Boom
, is a thoroughly consistent record that doesn't take a break from kicking listeners ears right in the a**. With its dirty, slinky guitar riffs, emotionally void drum beats and Alison's cool, confident, I-don't-give-a-fu*k delivery, Midnight Boom
is an album that offers more treats in its basket than one would expect from a band with so few resources.
Opening with touch-tone phone beeps and an intermittent dial tone is Midnight Boom's
first track and lead single. “U R A Fever”
is a hand clapped, minimalist, call and response song that's kept on its leash until it reaches its post-chorus, one chord, band-saw guitar riff that cuts deep and sets the harsh, aggressive tone for the remainder of the song. Like their sophomore effort, No Wow
, Midnight Boom
opens with what could be considered its strongest track. Setting the bar high early, Midnight Boom
offers almost too much promise too early, but by their third LP, Alison and Jamie have clearly found their swagger and find a way to open new, equally intriguing doors at every turn.
With one possible exception, every track on the album could be a single. Track two, and the second single off the album, “Cheap and Cheerful”
is a slightly more upbeat track that you could probably dance uncomfortably to in social situations. With it's borderline-industrial drum beat and cheer-like vocal, it's about as “party” as the album gets. “I want you to be crazy, 'cause you're boring baby when you're straight.”
Not quite as poetic as harsh, Alison's lyrics are honest and to the point. She uncovers common territory nobody else explores. “It's alright (it's alright) to be mean (to be mean).”
She's right. It's better this way.
is based around a rapid, low-key, programmed percussion that's interrupted for choruses by Jamie's clanging, thrashy riffs over Alison's intensified, expressive lyrical delivery. The chorus bites like a snake while the verse ticks like a clock. The lyrics continue to explore the same unpleasant, honest territory found in the earlier tracks. “Time ain't gonna cure you honey. Time don't give a sh*t.”
The verse guitar is composed almost entirely of harmonics. Squeezing the alternative, physical sounds out his instrument is Hince's forte. Like Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jamie Hince uses a single guitar to get the roughest, fullest sound out of his six strings and a pick, while never indulging in clichéd rock instrumentation. By using all of the hidden sounds on the guitar, The Kills almost have more than one live instrument.
Because of the shortage of band members and instruments, The Kills have to use every resource available to them. One of those resources is the vocals of Jamie Hince, who shares vox duty on the opening “U R A Fever”
and track four, “Getting Down”
. With limited vocal ability, Jamie stays well within his close-to sing/speak range - which lends itself perfectly to the lo-fi, build-it-from-scratch sound The Kills are so adept at. “Getting Down”
is the only track on Midnight Boom that features Jamie's vocal over Alison.
“Last Day of Magic”
could be the album's strongest track and single, depending on where you're standing. Probably the most straight-forward rock and roll song on the album, it's the only track you could imagine another band performing. While “Last Day of Magic”
clearly has their stamp all over it – it also has the most recognizable construction in regards to what you could expect to hear on a modern rock radio station. On a really good day.
While never repeating itself, yet never straying from it's core, Midnight Boom
offers quality songs piled from bottom to top. “Hook and Line”
has one of the strongest hooks on the album in the lyric containing it's title. “Black Balloon”
is a slow building, hand-clapped percussion, ballad with dreamy vocals and somber lyrics. “Has anyone ever told you it's not coming ... true?”
No, but thanks for the spoiler. “Alphabet Pony”
is pure, simplistic fun, while “What New York Used To Be”
explores the more electronic side of what The Kills can do. If every track on the album were more like it, The Kills could pass for an industrial act.
The only time the album ceases to maintain its engaging sound is in the closing “Goodnight Bad Morning.”
With a sleepy guitar line and vocal performance, the track wants to tuck you in as it closes itself out, which is appropriate, but not quite welcome after listening to the eleven tracks that preceded it. Alison does a great Hope Sandoval impression on a track that would really fit better on a Mazzy Star record than a Kills album.
showcases what The Kills are now capable of. If they had a ceiling after No Wow
, they blasted through it with their third release and have opened up all kinds of new dark alleys and avenues to wander down and drag us across – broken glass and all.