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The Kills - Midnight Boom

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Artist: The Kills

Album: Midnight Boom

Label: Domino

Review date: Mar. 14, 2008

When they got together, The Kills were a long-distance relationship, trading tracks back and forth, declaring them cooked when they were still bloody rare. Never even close to being down-to-earth (too much chain smoking, tight pants and nice haircuts), they nonetheless assembled some songs that defied lo-fi aesthetics and worked as plain old hard rock. Early work like "Fried My Little Brains" spins like ZZ Top, minus the fat bottom.

As they've made a career out of it, their approach has become less convincing. They've settled into an Aughts update of the Goat 'n' Gal archetype. He's the gnarled looking dude. She's his world-weary flame. Together they make slightly disturbing music. Like Gainsbourg & Birkin or Nancy & Lee, they tap the latest groovy sounds, then work in a lot of purring and cooing and moaning. But Midnight Boom doesn't contain a "69 Année Érotique"or "Some Velvet Morning", even if Armani XXXchange’s hip-hop scratching on the opening track is every bit as awkwardly hep.

That's a big problem. When one falls short of the prime goal of sexiness, there's no room for appreciating the rest of the effort. It's like looking at the boudoir photos your aunt got down at Glamour Shots for her 25th wedding anniversary. You're not thinking, "Well, the turquoise sheets are a nice touch..." Hey, if it was easy to be sexy, we'd all be walking around a lot more satisfied.

So as they fumble their way through signifiers of der bädäss – casinos and black balloons and sour cherries – it's hard to pay mind to what they get right. They're still capable of getting an incredibly brittle sound. "Last Day of Magic" matches easy melodies and breaking-glass guitar like a Thurston Moore composition. The briefest tracks work even better. "Alphabet Pony" and "M.E.X.I.C.O.C.U." are such quickies that triteness like "plastic Jesus" and "running into trouble" don't break the momentum. A whole disc of such fragments would be more satisfying than the Vogue Magazine garage rock of their main numbers. I'd have pegged the Raveonettes as being even less likely to turn it around, but on Lust Lust Lust they suddenly mastered their blowtorch-the-custard technique. If The Kills didn't try so hard to be sultry, they might have a similar breakthrough. They're more appealing when you've got no idea what's on their mind.

By Ben Donnelly

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