When a band named the Kills titles their debut album with the pessimistic Keep on Your Mean Side and bluntly names a track "Fuck the People," they automatically create a hard-ass, we-don’t-give-a-fuck image for themselves. Whether their music lives up to this self-created image, though, is another question altogether.
The answer, based on what I’ve heard here, is yes it does.
The Kills, a two-piece from London (VV on guitar and vocals, Hotel on drums, guitar and vocals), is not the typical rock ‘n’ roll that angrily spits in your face. They choose instead a more subtle but powerful route. The Kills takes the traditionally down-and-out beat of the blues and throws in a loud, distorted rock guitar, resulting in an even deeper angst-ridden sound than either genre of rock or blues could produce alone.
Lyrics as "Black magic and your $2 love" and "It’s been a long time coming / I’m gonna stab your kissing, kissing mouth" succeed in portraying their slightly demented minds. In "Fuck the People," you can almost witness the smirk forming across singer VV’s lips as she sneers "you gotta want it, stab your back, hey, fuck the people." They also have two random answering machine monologues interrupting the album, making you question their sanity even more.
The Kills even manage to make me question a large prejudice of mine: a belief that male singers serve the rock world better than their female counterparts. I spent a significant amount of time attempting to adequately describe the voice of VV, aka Alison Mosshart, who can carry a note far beyond the ability of the average "rocker chick." Her strong but throaty voice is just short of incredible. Her male partner, Hotel, aka Jamie Hince, enhances this effect by backing her with his low, barely audible rasp that creates an ominous feel around tracks, especially "Pull A U."
The album, though, isn’t all filled with dark angst. The songs with a more bluesy beat, as "Fried My Little Brains," or a slower rhythm, like "Monkey 23," give a sense of almost hopeful introspection. That isn’t to say that the Kills are looking for a life of sunshine and giggles. They seem to find joy in their darker sounds that leave the listener confused, a confusion of not even remotely knowing what flows through the band’s heads or lyrics. VV, a seemingly sneaky personality, leaves you at the end of their last track with a tiny noise that one can’t quite decipher between a soft cry or a devious giggle.