The Kills - ‘No Wow’ (Domino)
15 Mar 2005
long-awaited, second lp from the new york-london duo that know few bounds in the way of timelessly minimalist, affecting bluez; release - '05.
Cool; a word that serves as a literary seal of approval to inform us as to what is currently acceptable. The modern obsession with the big 'C' seems to have created two distinct musical genres, that which is (Bloc Party), and that which, we are told, is not (Stereophonics, apparently). There are many problems with this sorely overused endorsement; firstly, no one seems to actually know what it means (go on, ask someone), secondly it's about as useful in its descriptive powers of art as the phrase 'autumnal' is in expressing the nasal complexities of a fine wine. Viewing music in such black and white terms just encourages the dumbed-down tabloid analysis that seems to have become the norm for many-a-confused and emotionally impassive journalist.
The fashionable, ever-changing parameters of cool makes her a fickle mistress indeed. The ticking of all necessary boxes has ensured an ill-advised and short-lived career for many an un-worthy band (we're watching you The Bravery) and has ensured the repression of many a superior other. The Kills are a band that, at their emergence two years ago definitely filled many a cool box. Boy/Girl duo! No bass! Are they dating?! And so were VV and Hotel met with totally unjustifiable White Stripes comparisons, which now seem as analytically astute as pointing out that the earth is in fact spherical. But, this did make them cool.
In an attempt beyond an exercise in the blatantly obvious, let us try and ask why The Kills have made a casting impression. Well, on this new record, as with 'Keep On Your Mean Side', it all seems to be about honesty. The stark production values and no frills writing and playing style are where the core of this honesty lie with 'No Wow' feeling like we've personally been invited into their house but they are both a bit too f**ked to tidy up which, they seem more than happy to admit. Having dropped their rock n' roll aliases Jamie and Alison have again taken the core aspects of their lives and concept of art and produced a sonically stripped-back and emotionally raw record, more so in many ways than the first. Jamie claims they wanted to 'get to the heart of a song, get rid of all the flesh and bones until it's just a beating heart.' This they have certainly done. Whereas some bands give us all the sonic elements on a shiny plateau, The Kills merely hint at them, where some would play a chord, they just play a single note. This sparing use of sonic ingredient can work to fantastic effect as shown on the hauntingly bare 'Ticket Man', other times though, you just want things to kick in a little more.
Written in two weeks and completed just three months later and this is definitely etched within the heart of the record with it feeling like a painfully sincere audio documentary of their lives at a specific point in time. It is in this sense of articulate artistic honesty that Jamie and Alison excel. The title refers to their belief that there is no sense of the amazing or wow in the current musical climate and drawing inspiration from disco, the emergence of punk and the beat poet era 'No Wow' is unlikely to put this back in. It is, at times, just too raw and introspective. As such, the scant-blues is certainly not without its moments, Jamie's broodingly hushed vocals on the (almost) anti-chorus of 'Murder Mile' and the anthem for the futile search of a good time in the brilliant electro-scuzz of 'Good Ones'.