You know that scene in Pee Weeï¿½s Big Adventure where Pee Wee goes hitchhiking and finds Mickey, an escaped felon with a convertible? And how the two men smirk and mutter, ï¿½Heh, the law,ï¿½ right before being stopped by the cops? The Kills are that kind of a duo — partners in crime, sounding every bit the part, as though no interference (or criticism) can affect their journey. All theyï¿½re lacking are a dress and a pair of handcuffs.
Britainï¿½s Jamie ï¿½Hotelï¿½ Hince and Americaï¿½s Alison ï¿½VVï¿½ Mosshart, formerly of Scarfo and Discount, respectively, combined forces about five years ago in Hinceï¿½s Gypsy Hill flat, where the pair christened each other with stage names and began to occupy their preferred musical roles (she sang, he played guitar and drums). Created in their third year of recording, the pairï¿½s sophomore LP, No Wow, is tighter, lower in key, and with the exception of vaguely bluesy ï¿½Rodeo Town,ï¿½ grittier than their 2003 debut, Keep on Your Mean Side.
Vocally, itï¿½s nearly impossible to avoid comparing Mosshart to PJ Harvey. Sure, Mosshart does incorporate the punk goddessï¿½s commanding growl in a few places on No Wow. And the album blends a bit of last yearï¿½s Uh Huh Her with 1993ï¿½s 4-Track Demos. But some forget that Harvey takes quite a few cues from Patti Smith, and on No Wow closer ï¿½Ticket Man,ï¿½ Mosshartï¿½s ability to recall Smith becomes blatantly clear.
As much as Mosshartï¿½s voice takes the spotlight — perhaps due to her strong but minimalist style — Hinceï¿½s musical effort sometimes teeters on overpowering Mosshartï¿½s singing. Recording on a drum machine for the first time, more room is left for him to perfect his ï¿½I learned my guitar skills in prisonï¿½ audible strut. Itï¿½s half the bandï¿½s identity, yes, but the constant guitar build-up causes No Wow to come off as if theyï¿½re mere introductions to the Scottish folk-punk band Sons and Daughters. Hotel and VV have the right amount of energy to kick off each song, they just canï¿½t seem to steer them to a different place by the time theyï¿½ve ended.
Easy as it is to criticize the Kills for putting image over originality, theyï¿½ve got more potential than most bands to finish what theyï¿½ve started. Or maybe Mosshart, like Pee Wee, will find her missing bike and abandon Hince for a girl named Dottie.