Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince spent years living in one room together, they hang out with Kate Moss and they play music like they’ve got needles hanging out of their arms. But despite their image as abnormally stylish junkies, all press reports indicate that they’re generally well-behaved vegans. Still, if the whole persona is just an act, they’re reeeeeeeeally good at it. [Side note: It’s Kate, apparently, who wears the pants in the Moss-Hince household. Or at least the brass knuckles.*]
I first encountered The Kills when their song Monkey 23 played at the end of the excellent French movie The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and then again when they performed the awesome I Call It Art on the mostly silly M. Gainsbourg Revisited compilation. I’d heard their name before that, but ignored them because they came out at more or less the same time as the Stills and the Thrills, and I couldn’t really be bothered.
Their first two albums, Keep On Your Mean Side and No Wow, sound like an American PJ Harvey with a tinny drum machine (in other words awesome) but they’ve gone and outdone themselves with Midnight Boom.
Lead single U.R.A. Fever snarls as Mosshart and Hince (or, excuse me, VV and Hotel) seductively sing back and forth to (or at) one another. Second single Cheap and Cheerful starts off with VV coughing before launching into a song that’s almost clubby.
Even better, Last Day of Magic articulates a messy breakup in as few words as possible: “We’re two parties/Two parties ending.” It’s maybe the most urgent song on the album and probably the best, although there’s also the excellent What New York Used To Be and the elegant comedown Goodnight Bad Morning. Actually, there’s not a bad song on the album. Even the silly M.E.X.I.C.O. sounds urgent enough that you can’t ignore it, and the chorusless Getting Down isn’t anywhere near as cheesy as it rightfully ought to be.
I listened to Midnight Boom more than anything else this year. When I was happy it made me happier. When I was mad it made me madder. When I wanted to cry it made me want to cry more. (But, you know, in a good way.) And when I wanted to dance it gave me something to dance to. Also, Last Day of Magic has what I’d say it probably the best video of the year.
The Kills really stood out for me in a generally a great year for duos (see #2, #5 and #12, as well as Crystal Castles, Cloetta Paris and the Tough Alliance, among probably lots of others.) But surprisingly, out of the approximately four trillion 2008 album best-ofs out there, I haven’t seen a single one that gave this album the respect it deserves.
(*Semi-relatedly, how cute is this?)