©Franois BERTHIER The Kills :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

I cannot recall the time and place when I first heard The Kills music. It may have been one of my many influential music friends, or my older daughter who I know loves them and is also “highly musically influential“, or maybe it was through The White Stripes. I don’t honestly remember, but what I do know is that as soon as they came in my life they stuck. I love Alison Mosshart’s voice and, well, might as well admit it, I find her incredibly fucking gorgeous (big crush here). Jamie Hince’s guitar work is as incredible as Alison’s voice is to me, and I love when the two of their voices collaborate and collide together. Together they create musical magic.

Black Balloon was my first favorite song; that, I remember. The first time I heard it I was taken aback, and I couldn’t stop listening to it. Then, I saw the video, and was enthralled even further. The correlation between the violence and drama and loneliness of touring and fame illustrated as a story about a vampire was brilliant, and inspired. It quickly became one of my all-time favorite music videos, one I’ve shared, written about, and watched multiple times.

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My love for The Kills grew exponentially after I got to see them live, at The Observatory, a few years ago.

The Kills are one of those artists that you truly and madly and deeply need to see play live. As much as I love their albums, and I have ended up loving all of their albums, seeing them live is something else completely. There is energy, there is chemistry, there is heat and passion and fire, and the music just takes you over, drags you across the floor, turns you inside out and leaves you screaming for more. There are layers to their music, visceral beats and riffs, and songs that sneak in and slide under your skin, leaving you haunted in the very best way.

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Also, Alison on-stage is beyond sexy. She exudes a Jim Morrison type of gait and demeanor that just adds to the heat and the chemistry, especially live. But even in the recorded albums you can hear it, and feel it, if you really listen.

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The Kills were formed by American singer Alison Mosshart (“VV”) and British guitarist Jamie Hince (“Hotel”). Their first three albums, Keep On Your Mean Side, No Wow, and Midnight Boom, have garnered critical praise. Blood Pressures, their fourth and most recent studio album, was released on April 4, 2011, worldwide and April 5, 2011, in the United States.

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Mosshart was previously in Floridian punk rock band Discount, and Hince was in the British rock bands Fiji, Scarfo and Blyth Power. Before the two had met, Mosshart overheard Hince playing music in an upstairs flat during Mosshart’s European tour with Discount. They finally met up, and started playing around with some music ideas. After Mosshart went back to Florida under the influence of Lauren Antonina Herbert, she continued writing songs with Jamie, by sending her ideas overseas to London, where he lived.

Mosshart saved her money and eventually moved to London. The duo officially started. Wanting to cut themselves off from their pasts, Mosshart and Hince renamed themselves “VV” and “Hotel”, respectively. Hince said that he and Mosshart “got drunk one day and named each other off the top of our heads as a stupid romantic ode to the pop art scene.” Later, after each wrote multiple band name ideas on typewriters, Mosshart and Hince decided on a new name, The Kills.

Together, they began writing sparse, minimalist songs with the aid of a drum machine. In 2001 they showcased their new songs on a demo tape; however, the pair shunned approaches from major record labels. Recording as VV and Hotel, they contributed the song Restaurant Blouse to the compilation If the Twenty-First Century Did Not Exist, It Would Be Necessary to Invent It.

Shortly after this they recorded their debut release, the Black Rooster EP, which saw release on British indie label Domino Records and was picked up for distribution by Dim Mak Records in the United States.

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The record could not have been more of a departure from both artists’ previous bands. It was lo-fi in both musical and aesthetic terms. The record sleeve featured photos of Mosshart and Hince taken in a photo booth rather than professional photography. Musically, the record was a sparse, lo-fi garage rock/blues hybrid. Though the band cites Captain Beefheart, PJ Harvey, LCD Soundsystem, The Velvet Underground, The Fall, Patti Smith, Suicide and Royal Trux as immediate influences, the music press has largely compared them to The White Stripes.

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Following international touring, they entered Toe Rag Studios, where the White Stripes had recorded their album Elephant, to record their debut album Keep on Your Mean Side, mostly on 8-track, in just 2 weeks. Distributed in the US and UK by Rough Trade Records, the album was similar in style to the EP, veering from the Velvets-esque stomp of Wait to the noisy, dirty garage punk blues of Fuck the People and dark psychedelia of Kissy Kissy.

Maintaining an anti-careerist, anti-music industry attitude, the band rarely granted interviews. Rather, they got the music press to come to them with their live shows (which also included the drum machine). Mosshart chain-smoked while singing, rarely speaking to the audience; at a New York City show following the ban on public smoking, Mosshart went on stage with three bottles of water, lit up a cigarette and proceeded to smoke constantly from the first song to the last note of the set.

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Their second album, No Wow, was released by Domino Records on February 21, 2005. Featuring an artier, less “guitar rock” sound, the record embraced post punk influences and sounded even more stripped down than Keep on Your Mean Side. Originally written to be performed on a Moog, the band was forced to change directions and record it primarily using a guitar after Hince’s Moog broke and couldn’t be repaired before entering the studio. A 40-minute DVD documentary was included with a limited number of copies and features interview, performance and on the road footage shot on tour.

The first single, The Good Ones, from No Wow, was released on February 7, 2005 and reached # 23 in the UK Singles Chart.

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The Kills’ third album, Midnight Boom was released in March 2008.

The album also picked up new mainstream success for the band with various big TV performances in the UK; appearing on Later With Jools Holland, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, T4, The Album Chart Show, Sound, Live From Abbey Road, and From The Basement. As well as many songs being featured in U.S. television shows.

On September 11, 2009, it was announced on the band’s MySpace page that they had begun work on their fourth studio album though no release date had been set.

Black Balloon from their Black Balloon EP, released in 2009.

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The Kills’ fourth studio album, Blood Pressures, was released in April 2011. A video for the first single from Blood Pressures, Satellite, was released on February 9, 2011, followed By Future Starts Slow, Baby Says, The Last Goodbye, and Wild Charms on September 2012.

The band contributed a cover of Dreams to the Fleetwood Mac tribute compilation “Just Tell Me That You Want Me”, which released in August of 2012.

The Kills later released the photo book Dream & Drive, made with their long time friend and photographer Kenneth Capello. Capello has also directed some of their music videos, such as No Wow and Black Balloon.

We all long await a next album…hopefully sometime soon.

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Coming up with my top ten favorite songs from The Kills was harder than I anticipated, and beyond my number one choice, that on its own is one of my all-time favorite songs, would probably vary depending on the day, or sometimes the hour. I feel like I keep discovering songs of theirs that I end up falling hard for, and playing over and again, declaring “no, this is my favorite one“. Don’t you love when a band has that effect on you?

1. Black Balloon
from the album, Midnight Boom

“Let the weather have its way with you.”

2. Last Day of Magic
from the album, Midnight Boom

“We’re two parties,
two parties ending.”

3. Cheap & Cheerful
from the album, Midnight Boom

“I want you to be crazy,
’cause you’re boring baby when you’re straight.”

4. The Good Ones
from the album, No Wow

“Once in a while,
once in a while,
you got to burn your lips,
keep your feelings alive.
Once in a while,
once in a while,
you got to burn down your house,
keep your dreaming alive.”

5. The Last Goodbye
from the album, Blood Pressure

“I heard all you said and I love you to death.
I heard all you said,
don’t say anything.”

6. Kissy Kissy
from the album, Keep On Your Mean Side

“I’m gonna burn your kissy kissy claw.
I’m gonna stab your kissy kissy heart.
I’m gonna stab your kissy kissy mouth.”

7. Baby Says
from the album, Blood Pressures

“Baby says,
for all I’ve forsaken,
make something of all the noise,
and the mess you’re making,
and all the time’s it’s taken.”

8. Crazy
from the album, The Last Goodbye EP

“And I’m crazy for loving you.”

9. U.R.A. Fever
from the album, Midnight Boom

“You are a fever,
you are a fever,
you ain’t born typical.”

10. No Wow
from the album, No Wow

“And all the people you see coming by to save you,
you’re make-believing-on in your mind,
your eyes are holy rollin’, looking, beating, knocking,
the ceiling gets closer to you all the time.”

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