THE KILLS: DOING IT TO DEATH

The Kills still make music, apparently.

Ashe & Ice, their 5th full-length album, will drop via Domino Records on June 3rd. Fifth album? It’s interesting how bands and their music are often boiled down to just their bare essentials. Everything else evaporates like water vapor. I wasn’t even aware of 2011’s Blood Pressures existence. Thankfully, I don’t feel left out at all, but don’t take my bluntness as an insult. For me, two Kills records should be stamped and enshrined for propelling “indie” into mainstream consciousness: 2005’s No Wow, and 2008’s Midnight Boom. The Kills and contemporaries helped push the aesthetic of ‘indie rock’; a term that now describes a type of band and how they dress and showcase their art, than the kind of label charged with distributing their music. The Kills defined an indispensable era of music when hipness, was sacred.  And shallow.  Expression didn’t require action-driven results; just a fake leather jacket and can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.  We blasted The Kills in our dingy dilapidated habitation and wanted nothing more than to attain the decrepit authenticity of Alison “V.V.” Mosshart and Jamie “Hotel” Hince. Tracks like “Cheap & Cheerful“, “No Wow“, “Tape Song“, “U R A Fever“, “Sour Cherry“, were on high-rotation at those painfully awkward indie dance parties.

The Kills are a male/female two-piece that showcased their gritty appropriation of garage rock with nervous energy and an agitating display of sexual tension. They were fashionistas. They were purveyors of antiquated technology (their earliest collaborations involved mailing and exchanging ‘tapes’ with each other). Sound Pretentious? You wouldn’t be alone in your conviction. The Kills are a polarizing outfit. While always attracting a loyal following of devotees, other’s detested them as a White Stripes rip-off. And while the White Stripes did share the male/female guitar rock dichotomy, the Kills quickly defined their own sonic pallet: scratchy guitar, barren drum machine, and dry minimalism in the tradition of The Velvets and Suicide. The Kills might have borrowed from their idols, but they made it all their own.

In a recent interview Alison Mosshart claimed their next album will be “completely different“,  but I’m not convinced. Building up to Ashe & Ice, The Kills have released a pair of new singles with accompanying music videos: “Heart of a Dog“, and “Doing it to Death.” Neither of these tunes are bad. But I can’t help but think the latter of these two tracks defines what the Kills are doing with their music at this point. Indie rock, is like, so last decade, man. Look, no one’s frowning on you if you’re salivating over this upcoming record. Nor do they have any right too. Music judginess sucks, but it’s hard to shake off, we get it. I’m not a revered audiophile, I’ve never stepped inside a professional recording studio. Yet here’s the final score: my untuned ears are either having a horribly difficult time picking out the minutia that make up their “completely different” sound, or it’s just not there. And if it’s not, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t claim to be reinventing yourself when you’re really just trying to give us the same thing in fresh packaging.What once sounded fresh, and epitomized “cool”, now sounds dated. The Kills have stretched their garage rock sound far enough: They’re doing it to death.

If you’re one of the aforementioned Kills devotees, you’d best catch them live before they go back into hibernation (or go to Europe for the duration of their tour schedule).