Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Kills @ Soho Revue Bar, London

15 January 2008

Grain is dull. Really, really dull. Sure, it’s full of protein and nutrients and everything a boy could possibly need to grow up big and strong, but it’s still about as appealing as a game of naked Twister with the lead singer of The Pigeon Detectives.

Hence distilling. Now distilling rocks. Take boring, staid, run-of-the-mill stuff like grain, hurl some distilling into the mix and bin-fucking-go, you’ve got vodka. Which is ace. Hell, drink enough of it and they’ll make you president of Russia and you can dance on a tank.

The Kills, you see, know this. They know about taking something and boiling it down until all that?s left is some kind of crystalline, purified, amplified version of the thing you started with.

Making them the musical equivalent of a Kentucky moonshiner. Only with pointier boots and better hair. For while they may only consist of the skeletal outline of a band – boy; girl; drum machine, sounds more like a Gordon Ramsay seague than a ticket to musical manna – they know how to make less mean more.

A cacophonous Black Rooster, a sultry, sleazy, sulk through a sordid Kissy Claw, they’re constructed from a myriad of clattering angles and scattergun drum patterns. Epic installations of minimalist art rock, as cool and as clinical as Lou Reed in a meat locker.

So far, so predictable. However, the new material, the material that this gig is about showcasing, isn’t so predictable.

Because it struts. It funks. It D-I-S-C-Os. It’s almost as if this tin band has found a heart, and it formerly pumped blood for George Clinton. Yes, the songs still have guitars like razor wire wrapped around them and yes the constraints laid down by the immovable barriers of the electronic backbeat remain as unforgiving as ever, but within that, it seems a little friendlier.

To the extent that the best new song aired tonight, the his’n’her, back’n’forth of URA Fever, is like Sonny and Cher. Ok, Sonny and Cher taking a ride on the mothership to a galaxy of bad drugs, bad sex and good times, but you can almost picture them balancing on stools performing it on Top Of The Pops.

As always, on stage they’re still as compelling as a bear fight. Circling and eyeing each other up, Alison and Jamie, VV and Hotel, take humdrum ingredients and produce the kind of show that in Soho normally comes with tassels and a surcharge.

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The Kills @ Soho Revue Bar, London