You Ain't Born Typical

Palatinate - November 2008

The Kills
The Other Rooms, Newcastle

The crammed and unusually box-like venue on the evening of Wednesday 5th November seemed to perfectly complement the anticipation for the grungy, raw preachings of The Kills that we all know and love.

Although they may be criticised for only being famous because the fella is ‘shagging that skinny bird’, the already sweaty crowd were genuinely there for the music rather than a chance of peeking Mossy’s gaunt phizog.

The Kills’ lack of mainstream music coverage and ability to retain their underground sound despite their sudden boom of appearances in Heat is endearing yet somewhat understandable when seeing them perform – their unrefined chaos on stage is a spectacle of theatre and an acquired taste.

The audience must translate their enigmatic and incredibly visual behaviour personally rather than being spoon-fed a rehearsed performance, which seems a rare element in modern music. Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart (AKA Hotel and VV) have been signed to independent label Domino Records for 5 years, having toured with Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand as well as having numerous headline tours and summers of festival-hopping. The Baltic art gallery in Gateshead housed 1000 Polaroid photographs and a video by The Kills in 2007 as part of their Andy Warhol vs Dazed and Confused exhibition.

The Kills have an electric presence on stage, emitting soaring levels of sexual chemistry through their dramatic tomfoolery. They tease and physically euphemise each other as props, meaning the experience of seeing them live adds another dimension to merely listening to their gutsy tunes.

The allure of Alison’s voice as it effortlessly dips in and out of Sonic Youth-esque rocky growls is perfectly balanced by Jamie’s hushed and unperturbed accompaniment as The Kills open set with their most recent single, stripped-to-the-bone tune U R A Fever, Hince looking quite the ragamuffin sporting a straw hat, beige cardigan and a black eye. Alison frequently sweeps back her trademark mop of shaggy dark hair to expose a surprisingly calm countenance as she scales the walls and clambers atop speakers.

The pair build anticipation during Tape Song and Last Day of Magic, intertwining the microphones and forcing awkwardly intimate space between the two. The country-influenced Kissy Kissy sees the two seductively singing into the same microphone and feigning head butts at the climaxes.

The crowd was treated to a lingering rendition of Pale Blue Eyes by Velvet Underground, a band which played a major role in forming The Kills back in 2000, as Alison and Jamie had a mutual obsession with the band, amongst other New York 60s and 70s punk bands.

Midnight Boom, the title of the new album, came from their work on song writing, describing their ability to work doubly as hard alone during many nights of nocturnal graft.
The album was influenced by a sixties documentary about sinister songs children sung in American inner-city schools, so Jamie and Alison experimented with an old hip-hop drum sequencer and reeled out what Jamie describes as 'modern-day playground songs'.

The Kills are unpretentious and unadulterated guts, putting to shame most of today’s myopic modern rock music. They encompass the effrontery of the 70s bands which inspired their work, unleashing rusty and unrestrained primal lust. A band such as The Kills comes along but once a decade, so make the most of them.

Midnight Boom is out now on Domino Records.