You Can Holler You Can Wail
The Kills came to the Fillmore SF in May, and Rebecca and I just couldn’t miss witnessing “VV” (Alison Mosshart) and “Hotel” (Jamie Hince) rip it to shreds for their sold-out audience. The Kills’ recently released album, Blood Pressures, had gotten under my skin just as had their previous album, Midnight Boom, even as it represented a bit of a departure from the grimycool punk underpinnings that had characterized most of the songs on Midnight Boom.
The first track on Blood Pressures especially – “Future Starts Slow” – had become a bit of an obsession for me, with Hince’s mad guitar thrusting itself along while Mosshart repeatedly blew what was left of my right mind with her perilously arresting vocal style. A particularly astute comment that accompanied a YouTube video of them performing the song characterized Hince’s guitar as sounding like “a troll army”, and I think that pretty much nails it.
After raising our eyebrows through the transparently Robert Smith-induced posturings of opening band Cold Cave, we pressed toward the front in our low-key thirtysomething way. Yes, we may have children at home, but we came to get our dose of these wild charms, and lingering politely at the back sipping our vodka and sodas just wouldn’t do.
Before too long, the black stage lit up to reveal a neon-bright pattern of Mosshart’s trademark leopard print, and the two sullenly adorable Kills strode onstage. She wore her standard hole-ridden tee and black cardigan with black skintight jeans. Unfortunately, I wasn’t close enough to see if she was still rocking the Hedi Slimane gold boots that she so adores. He was quite the dandy, sporting a leisure suit jacket and a polka-dot neckerchief.
The duo got down right to business, serving up tracks from each of their four albums, beginning with “No Wow” from the album of the same name, and then moving deftly into the aforementioned “Future Starts Slow.” Mosshart prowled and raged ferociously around the neon-lit stage while Hince stood his ground, provoking his counterpart with the raw fluency of his guitar and the could-give-a-shit timbre of his attitude.
Energy reached a high point in the middle of the concert, when the duo played a few of their best songs back-to-back: the clap-peppered dialogue “U.R.A. Fever,” “DNA,” the oddly reggae-tinged “Satellite,” the super catchy “Tape Song,” and the uncharacteristically sweet “Baby Says.”
Much has been made of The Kills’ lack of a drummer, with many wondering why they choose to rely upon a drum machine rather than add a band member. While it would be interesting to hear their sound expanded, I can certainly see why they haven’t. The dynamic between “VV” and “Hotel” is so precisely, intensely tuned – the atmosphere between the two so fraught with lust, love, menace, frustration, romance, sibling rivalry and inspiration – that it seems another body onstage could very well upset the equilibrium and cause the whole delicately balanced vision to fall to pieces.
The Kills are like the Wuthering Heights of modern punk-inspired rock – a turbulent, theatrical, page-turning gothic romance. And there’s no turning away as this Heathcliff and Catherine continue to battle it out, ravishingly, album after album.