The Kills: 2016

August 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm (Uncategorized)

The Kills, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, the Kills, are probably my favourite band at the moment. Still, every band has a sell-by date, and this new record is their fifth and it comes after a gap of several years.

In terms of favourite albums, I go back and forth between the debut Keep on Your Mean Side and Midnight Boom. Just the rawness of the debut and the punky pop (not punk-pop) of the latter do it for me. Sure, sure, No Wow has its moments, though curiously the band only play the title song live, and Blood Pressures  broadens the pallet a little, sacrificing some of the intensity in the process.

The band’s new record Ash and Ice was released on June 6, two weeks after their Toronto date (see below), but the first single and video “Doing it to Death” were making the rounds in May. And, I’ll be honest,  my initial response involved notions of shark jumping. Sure, the video looked fun, (crazy funeral, back flips on cars etc.), but the song just didn’t grab me. The guitar was too low in the mix, and it lacked the passion, I associate with the Kills. The second single “Heart of a Dog” was better, but it still didn’t hold my attention, the way previous records had.

The problem for the Kills, like every band really, is to change and yet retain the fans. If a band simply turns out new versions of the same songs, it becomes a caricature. I love the Ramones, but after a while, they were really writing the same song (I know there’s an argument, that the Ramones only wrote one song, but it was such a great song, they were able to build a career around it, but I digress). Yet, if they change, they risk loosing that original fan base. Not every band can make that transition. We’re so hard to please!

So, Ash and Ice. First impression was disappointment. It didn’t sound like the Kills.  Guitar too low and a focus on percussion, not enough fast songs etc. But , you know, after a few listens, it grew on me. Songs like “Whirling Eye” and “Siberian Nights” pull you in.

But having said all of that, if you haven’t seen the Kills live, you really haven’t heard the band at all. This was my fifth time, and the second time I’d seen them at the Danforth Music Hall. If you haven’t been there, it’s a great big hall holding upwards of a thousand people. The sound is great, and you can usually find a spot to see the band (and without too much trouble you can usually worm your way to the front) . The opening band was LA Witch, a three-piece garage punk band from LA. set the tone. Plenty of feedback, and a scruffy sound which promised great things.

Yet, within a song, the Kills made me forget them altogether.  Alison Mosshart owns the stage. She’s never still, striding back and forth, and she is captivating. A magnetic stage presence. Jamie Hince is simply content to stand to one side, and let his band-mate command. And here’s the other weird thing, the new songs which I’d  heard before, sounded great. The songs new to me sounded great as well (which probably accounted for my initial disappointment when I heard the songs at home). And the old songs, well, they were also great.

So, shark jumping? No. But a transition. And one that I will follow to see where it leads.

 

Setlist: Danforth Music Hall May 21, 2016

  1. No Wow
  2. U.R.A. Fever
  3. Heart is a Beating Drum
  4. Kissy Kissy
  5. Hard Habit to Break
  6. Heart of a Dog
  7. Impossible Tracks
  8. Black Balloon
  9. Doing it to Death
  10. Baby Says
  11. Whirling Eye
  12. Pots and Pans
  13. Monkey 23

Encore

  1. Tape Song
  2. Siberian Nights
  3. Sour Cherry
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