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The Kills: Keep On Your Mean Side

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With single-word noms de rock and a band name that would look wicked carved on a desk during study hall, the members of The Kills almost don't need to make music to seem cool. The duo began as a transatlantic collaboration between Floridian Alison Mosshart (a.k.a. VV) and Londoner Jason Hince (a.k.a. Hotel). Now based entirely in London, they seem intent on making the ungodliest blues-rock anywhere on earth. Comparisons to The White Stripes have been inevitable, but there's no retreat into childlike naïveté on the band's fierce, scary full-length debut Keep On Your Mean Side, just a lot of pounding, sinister music (with help from the occasional drum machine). It would make the perfect soundtrack for an evening spent terrorizing hitchhikers and toppling portable toilets. The typical Kills song consists of VV, with or without Hotel, growling and yowling against a thick, repeated riff until the song exhausts itself. After a while, the pattern exhausts itself, too, but there's a dark, mesmerizing power to the simplicity of songs with self-explanatory titles like "Fried My Little Brains," "Cat Claw," and "Kissy Kissy." By the album's second half, The Kills has even begun to discover a kind of delicacy that bodes well for its future. After all, what good is a long day of sex and violence in the basement (the memorable subject of "Black Rooster") if there's no energy left to reflect on it later?