By the time the second track “Cheap and Cheerful” hits you, you’ve just realized that this ain’t your daddy’s punk rock. This ain’t even the punk rock you’re used to. For their third album The Kills have evolved the blend of garage/indie/blues they are know for by turning up their danceable rhythm and created a sound that perfectly embodies their cool-like-dat ‘70s rock star swagger. Even the album title Midnight Boom implies that they’re more interested in getting the pits bouncing to the beat, than moshing into each other.
Just looking at Alison "VV" Mosshart and Jamie "Hotel" Hince, you get the feeling that the good ‘ol days of rock have returned. Hotel stands with his guitar in hand like a young Keith Richards, and VV approaches the microphone like a female version of Mick Jagger (a much more attractive version I must clarify). As shown on their previous albums Keep on Your Mean Side and No Wow, their minimalist lineup produces a big sound. The drum machine behind them may deter some, but listening to tracks like “Hook and Line” should solidify in anyone’s head that this is pure rock.
There is no breakthrough on the album lyrically. VV’s words come off like those heard in any typical playground rhyme. Perhaps that’s why “Black Balloon” manages to stand out. Strategically placed in the middle of Midnight Boom, it’s a down-tempo track in which VV sheds some of the most heartfelt lyrics of her career. “I swear our jet is crashing in my mind/ You can hold on but I wouldn’t waste your time,” she sings as patty-cake like hand clapping sets the mood.
With that The Kills seem to go from 0 to 100 mph without a break; what follows is the most in-your-face track on the album, “M.E.X.I.C.O.” At a mere minute and a half long, it seems to punch you in the gut just to remind you that VV and Hotel can thrash with the best of them. But soon your head starts nodding again like it’s a night at the Roxbury when you hear songs like “Sour Cherry” and “Alphabet Pony.”
At the end of the year, most critics will likely overlook Midnight Boom when they compile their best of 2008 list. That’s what happens when you’re lesser known in this country and signed to an independent label based in London. However in my opinion, this is the best rock album released so far this year. Twelve tracks measuring in at just over a half hour, it shows a young band fulfilling their potential and settling into their niche, all the while having fun. Yes imagine that; it’s 25 years after The Clash rocked the kasbah and punk can still be fun.
This review was first published online in the May 2008 edition of Feel The Word Magazine.