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Midnight Boom

The Kills

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Album Review

In the three years between No Wow and Midnight Boom, it sounds like the Kills discovered that having fun is actually much cooler than searching for haughty minimalist rock perfection. While Keep on Your Mean Side and No Wow's sinuous snarls were about as savagely spare and sexy as it's possible to get, their minimalism bordered on monochromatic. Midnight Boom bleeds color, excitement, and emotion into VV and Hotel's music, transforming it into daring, dirty pop that is unrepentantly glamorous and tender, high-end and trashy, and it glitters like diamonds mixed with broken glass. It's even structured like a classic pop album, opening with two bold salvos: "U.R.A. Fever" fashions dial tones, cryptically sexy banter, a foot-stomping, hand-clapping beat, and sneering shards of guitar into a fiercely catchy single. It struts with the best of the Kills' previous work, but opens their sound to many more possibilities. "Cheap and Cheerful" gets even wilder, combining VV's high-maintenance sass with a rhythm forged out of slamming doors and coughing, approximating a collaboration between Joan Jett and Matmos. These songs, and the rest of Midnight Boom, are nearly as minimalist as the Kills' other albums, but the duo plays with sounds much more: spring-loaded guitars and fanciful, detailed beats pop up when least expected, but everything falls into place effortlessly. This may be the Kills' most processed, produced music, but it's some of their roughest and rawest-sounding, too, with "Alphabet Pony" and "Hook and Line" rocking just as hard, and with more conviction, than their earlier work. The Kills also bring more feeling to Midnight Boom, which is just as crucial — and arguably, more daring — to the album's brilliance as is the band's newfound sonic adventurousness. "Getting Down"'s cheeky, hip-shaking, babbling nonsense brings the fun of the Kills' best singles to the fore, as does "Sour Cherry," which makes the hand-jive rhythm sound hip for the first time in half a century (the nasty, buzzing, three-note guitar solo riding it probably helps). VV and Hotel don't save their soft and melodic sides for just a token ballad, as they've done before — although Midnight Boom's big ballad, "Goodnight Bad Morning," comes on like the Velvets' "Sunday Morning" with the force of 40 more years of hangovers and comedowns fuelling it. "Black Balloon" is as epic as it is vulnerable, its slow-building majesty making it a standout. Even the semi-sweet electro rockabilly of "Last Day of Magic" has a yearning that resonates with a surprising depth. Best of all is "What New York Used to Be," a last hurrah that sounds urgent, not nostalgic, although its wall of staticky guitars come into focus like a memory. A list of everything that once was great, it's a song about not being too cool to care, even if it's delivered with a wink. Midnight Boom is the Kills' most consistent, varied, and inventive album yet, and proof that passion and creativity trump cool any day.

Biography

Formed: 1998 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The bluesy punk duo the Kills consist of vocalist/guitarist VV, aka Alison Mosshart, formerly of the Florida punk band Discount, and drummer/guitarist/vocalist Hotel, aka Jamie Hince. After Discount ended in 2000, VV began exchanging tapes with the London-based Hotel through the mail, but both of them felt hindered by this method, so VV crossed the Atlantic so the duo could write faster. In spring of 2001, they issued a self-released demo that showcased their gritty, sexy sound and earned favorable...
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Midnight Boom, The Kills
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