The Kills : London Tufnell Park Boston Arms

...genuinely compelling...

It’s hard to know quite what to make of The Kills. Yes, they sound terrific. Most of their songs are runaway train blues that are both cold and wild, that judder and tilt but always have a relentless forward propulsion. There’s something great about ‘Fuck The People’ and ‘Cat Claw’, especially in the way VV has that steely vocal control which made PJ Harvey such a revelation when she first appeared.

But, as VV and the man we are encouraged to call Hotel (and who some may know as Jamie from Scarfo) face each other off in a battle of strategic smoking, disciplined sweating and awkward poses, it can be tricky to concentrate on the music. Lord, The Kills are trying hard. Everything looks self-conscious, from the way Hotel has hung his Warhol wraparounds off the front of his anorak, to how VV stiffly shakes her hair at him. The point, it seems, is to be erotically charged and sleazy. But there’d be more of a frisson if she tried the same moves on their drum machine.

It’s harsh to criticise a band for having ideas, and The Kills evidently admire the arch stylings and mysterious electricities of The White Stripes. At the moment, though, the concept weighs too heavily on their shoulders. “Fried my little brains”, snarls VV, nervously, and it’s difficult to think of a band who strive so desperately to appear deviant and yet look so uptight, even while the music they play is so genuinely compelling.

John Mulvey