The Kills – No Wow (US import)

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It’s hard to believe that the Kills could sound even darker and more stripped-down than they did on Keep on Your Mean Side, but somehow they managed it: No Wow is one of the most highly concentrated rock albums of the 2000s, with a relentless focus and intensity that make Keep on Your Mean Side‘s more traditional ebb and flow feel downright slack. The duo’s throbbing guitars, to-the-point rhythms, and dangerously sexy lyrics have been simmered down to their rawest essences, so much so that No Wow often feels like a stark, stylized line drawing of rock. Less is usually more for the Kills, though, and they sound more powerful, more confident, and more distinctive here than they did on their debut. “No Wow” itself is a fantastic opener, a powerful statement of intent and of curdled but still compelling love (or lust), the likes of which haven’t been heard since Rid of Me. From there, the album doesn’t let up until the sweetly narcotized “I Hate the Way You Love, Pt. 2.” No Wow’s variations on its sounds and themes may be monochromatic, but they’re never monotonous. Wisely, the Kills have chosen to let their drum machine sound like a drum machine, giving songs like “Love Is a Deserter” a skeletal clatter for a backbone, and others, such as “The Good Ones” and “Sweet Cloud,” a piston-like thrust. The magnificently taut “Dead Road 7” adds shades of menacing, mysterious country/blues storytelling to the band’s songwriting, a direction they should pursue more. Though the album downplays the poppier moments that balanced Keep on Your Mean Side‘s onslaughts, No Wow’s soft, slow songs are thrown into even sharper relief. “Rodeo Town” is one of the loveliest, and grittiest, ballads that the band have written, and “Ticket Man” ends the album on a hypnotic, reflective note. While Jamie Hince‘s vocals are also downplayed (and missed), it has to be said that Alison Mosshart does a compelling job of handling the lioness’ share of the singing. No Wow is a tight, mean set of songs — there’s no room for punches to swing, but all of the shoving and grappling makes just as big an impact. [For the 17th anniversary of No Wow’s release, in 2022 the Kills released a deluxe edition of the album that paired its original mix with a new one by Grammy winner Tchad Blake.] Mint.





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