The Kills: No Wow

The Kills
No Wow
Rough Trade/RCA

 

As the frontwoman of the late-'90s Florida pop-punk band Discount, Alison Mosshart first drew acclaim singing earnest, articulate dispatches from the war to define oneself against a culture engineered to squelch idiosyncrasy. Luckily, that's not what Discount sounded like--they played tight, tuneful pop songs that evoked Saturday afternoon in a pair of denim cutoffs. After Discount broke up, Mosshart moved from sunny Gainesville to rainy London and discovered that rock doesn't have to accurately reflect life. It can also be theater, a way to perform outsized ideas about sex and attitude not warmly welcomed in a D.I.Y. underground in which approachability trumps invention.

Mosshart formed the Kills with Englishman Jamie Hince, whom she'd met on a previous trip to London and had been trading tapes with through the mail. Both took stupid stage names and set about pushing the minimalist, black-toothed garage-punk of Royal Trux and PJ Harvey to the brink of self-parody. Onstage, the Kills are Hince as Hotel, attacking his two-dollar guitar like a dog romancing a leg; Mosshart as VV, scowling into a mic stand through her thick black bangs; and a sputtering drum machine as a hired-hand timekeeper. To watch them play is to wonder why everyone in the audience is taking them so seriously. As refugees from the zealously ethical punk counterculture seeking asylum in the hopelessly style-obsessed indie subculture, that's their cross to bear. But it's not like the Kills don't load their records with hints that they're in on the joke.

On the new No Wow, which follows up 2003's instructively titled Keep on Your Mean Side, VV and Hotel reduce their shtick to bullshit slogans like "Your love is a deserter" and "I hate the way you love." Mosshart's astringent voice reacts to air the way hungover eyes react to light; since her performance is about the fuck-you moxie of a 50-foot queenie (as opposed to her complexity), she doesn't distract us from her venomous croak. The same goes for Hince, who must've spent RCA's cash on cigarettes at the duty-free; he wisely keeps No Wow's guitars fuzzy and dilapidated. More indie should sound this dumb.

 
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