The Kills: No Wow

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The Kills

Album: No Wow
Label: RCA

Simply by virtue of being a blues-drenched, image-conscious, mixed-sex duo, The Kills invites unavoidable comparisons to The White Stripes and The Raveonettes. But the comparisons tend to fade with the first notes of The Kills' music, which sounds like the work of an act just as likely to burn its peers alive as share a laugh and a beer with them. The sound comes from the heart. For The Kills, love isn't a battlefield; it's a slaughterhouse, a notion singer VV makes clear on the opening, title track of No Wow, the band's sophomore album. Balancing against the scary, thick riffs of her brooding bandmate Hotel, she sings, "You're going to have to step over my dead body before you walk out that door." The message is clear: With some kinds of love, nobody gets out alive.

No Wow doesn't make a huge stylistic leap from The Kills' 2003 debut, Keep On Your Mean Side. VV and Hotel may not have that in them. Instead, they narrow the focus and amp up the intensity. VV sings with a smoky, occasionally deadpan sense of controlled threat. When she asks repeatedly, "Did you get the real good ones?" on "The Good Ones," it's never clear what she's asking about, but it's perfectly clear that whomever she's talking to had better answer "yes." Elsewhere, the subject couldn't be clearer. "I Hate The Way You Love" and its sequel put it in the title, and much of the album plays like an attempt to act out the battle of the sexes with voice and electric guitar.

No one emerges the winner, but that's not really the point. Where The Kills lives, sentiments like "if I'm so evil, why are you satisfied?" could double as valentines. It's an unpleasant place, with nasty passions and more than a little blood on the floor. It could be an urban hellscape of the band's creation. It could just as easily be the apartment down the hall, or somewhere even closer to home.