|Alison Mosshart and Jamie
Several months ago, promoter Creativeman
launched its New Blood series to bring bands just breaking
overseas to Japan, giving Japanese audiences a taste of the
cutting-edge in rock, at welcome ticket prices that undercut
the ¥5,000-plus charged for more established acts from
America and the UK.
The next installment in the series, held at the intimate if
sterile Astro Hall, looks at a rock duo currently at the center
of the same kind of hype-storm that has recently engulfed
neo-garage acts like The Hives, The Vines, and all the other
two-word bands currently reinventing rocknroll.
A bluesy punk duo (or is it punky blues?), The Kills invite
instant comparisons to bare-bones brother-sister team White
Stripes. With their stripped-down, bass-free, lo-fi sound
and bohemian, girl-guy appeal, the parallels are immediate,
A listen to their just-released debut album, Keep on Your
Mean Side (issued in Japan by King Records), illustrates the
differences. Where the White Stripes bring a certain conscious
artifice to their look and sound, The Kills, in keeping with
their name, have a grittier appeal. Theres also the
key difference that the female half of The Kills is the main
vocalist, whereas in the White Stripes, Jack White is the
principal singer/songwriter and guitarist.
The Kills came together in 2000 out of
the wreckage of vocalist/guitarist Alison Mossharts (aka
VV) Florida punk band, Discount. Mosshart began trading demo
tapes with the London-based drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jamie
Hince, aka Hotel, and when the two felt things jelling, relocated
A self-released demo in 2001 earned the band the attention of
the music press, leading to a debut EP, Black Rooster, the following
year. Gigs at the London and Glasgow LadyFests preceded an extensive
US tour, and toward the end of last year the band signed with
Rough Trade for Keep on Your Mean Side, recorded in 30 days
at Londons Toerag studio.
While contemporary in flavor, the album bears the imprint of
bands such as the Velvet Underground and Royal Trux in its atmosphere
of decadent alienation. Songs with titles like Fried My
Little Brains and Fuck the People make it
perfectly clear where the Kills are coming from, yet their lyrics
have a certain rough poetry.
The Kills may not outlast their allotted 15 minutes of fame,
but for now this is their moment. Before they crash and burn
or, alternatively, fade into obscurity, this is a rare chance
in Japan to catch a rising band before it has broken big worldwide.
The Kills play Harajuku
Astro Hall on May 14. See listings for details.