The Kills continue to get praise for album, but don’t call it ‘accessible ‘

:: The Kills ::
:: Fox Theatre :: April 22 ::

By Derek Wright

Jamie “Hotel” Hince is inside what seems to be a stone warehouse in Birmingham, England. “I can’t fucking hear a fucking thing,” the British half of The Kills said as he hopped back on his cell after it dropped the first call mid-conversation. “This place is so fucking loud. Everything is echoing, and my tour manager is running around trying to set up more fucking interviews, and the connection is fucking quiet and sounds like shit. I can barely hear in this fucking place.”

Suddenly, the guitarist pauses to collect himself, takes a breath, and his tone returns to being as tempered as it was before this brief outburst. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding almost embarrassed. “I just want to make sure you get what you need. What was I talking about, again?”

For the past 15 minutes, the songwriter had been talking with The Marquee about the slightly altered direction of the new Kills album, Midnight Boom, which landed stateside last spring to a slew of warm reviews. Although the bluesy duo — comprised of Hince and Alison “VV” Mosshart — didn’t make a drastic leap structurally on its third LP, sonically the dozen tracks are crisper than anything in the band’s eight-year catalog. Boom’s cleaner sound is a point of contention for Hince, who insists that it contains the same energetic bursts as his previous material. And while it is underscored by the same sensuality as 2002’s Keep on Your Mean Side, with hints of the anger that No Wow channeled two years later, this captivating third release does so with a far less voyeuristic feel. The band’s first two records oozed an accidental sexuality, the kind of beauty that lurks in seedy motels beneath the smeared eyeliner and dangling cigarettes of heroine-chic models. If the band’s previous records reeked of hangovers and strutted along in a broken high-heel with unkempt morning-after hair, then Midnight Boom is the “before” photo: starry-eyed, gorgeous and ready for a night on the town.

The dropped call offered a chance to switch topics and give Hince the opportunity to step back from defending his latest output against those who might label it as being too corporate. It’s a fresh start to the conversation, and the moment of pause is similar to the way in which The Kills have dealt with confusion throughout the band’s career  —  as evident by how one band member handles poor cell connections. There’s the knee-jerk snap reaction, followed by a calm and then the acceptance of realizing that some misunderstandings are out of their control. By no fault of their own, Hince and Mosshart have long been victims of accidental association. The Kills’ debut was released the same year as those by (and I’m not shitting you here) The Thrills and The Stills.

This was also right around the time that a band called The Killers started to experience some success — which would have been a hard enough distinction if the blues-rock duo wasn’t already having to tackle an even stronger association to the male-female pairing of The White Stripes.

Hince’s voice is cautiously strained when discussing the perception of Midnight Boom, as if he should be guilty for the less-challenging output. Yet as the conversation switches to 2008’s  “Record Store Day” the performer perks up with an energy reserved for people who feel like they’ve done something right. As part of a global promotion to bolster sales and appreciation for independent outlets, The Kills slated an in-store performance at Manchester’s Piccadilly Records. Though it was canceled due to sound concerns, the convictions that drew the London-based duo to participate in the event were evident.

“It feels like that’s in my blood to support that,” Hince said. “Where I came from, all the music that I grew up listening to was the DIY of bands like Fugazi and Bikini Kill. That is what I grew up wanting to be a part of. Keeping the independent spirit is one of the reasons we signed to Domino and wanted nothing to do with a major label. There were only two labels we wanted anything to do with, and the other was Rough Trade.”

Part of their apprehension to major labels is their desire to be looked at over time, and not just for one, or even a couple of albums. “The album is kinda revealing itself to me over time. People are asking why it’s more accessible or whatever, and they want to know if it’s a move to a commercial record. But I think The Kills is a band that needs to be judged over eight or ten records. I’ve said this before, but I take people calling this a ‘commercial record’ or ‘more accessible’ as an insult,” Hince said, adding later, “People focus on sales when those older bands were cherished for being interesting, not popular.”

:: The Kills ::
:: Fox Theatre :: April 22 ::

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