American Alison “VV” Mosshart and Brit Jamie “Hotel” Hince bridge the Atlantic Ocean as the Kills, a propulsive duo that reconstructs rock and blues into a moody and lightning-quick modernized permutation of garage rock. Mosshart’s background was punk with the band Discount, while Hince played in a pair of British rock bands. A chance encounter prompted them to correspond and collaborate across the ocean. The Kills resulted. The duo announced its arrival in 2002 with the Black Rooster EP, an edgy thing that hinted at the euphoria of the Kills’ live shows. A year later Keep on Your Mean Side was released. The album lived up to its title, with snaky and blistering blues-influenced songs. By the time the Kills released Midnight Boom in 2008 the band’s sound had expanded, with some lighter textures giving the music a depth and, some claim, greater accessibility.
The dark sounds and spare instrumentation of the Kills has earned the band no small number of comparisons to the Velvet Underground, the New York band that pioneered a dark, droning style of avant garde rock. The VU’s 1967 debut album - The Velvet Underground and Nico – is a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece and touchstone, featuring jagged guitar interplay between Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison, menacing viola work by John Cale and tribal drumming by Mo Tucker. Cale had left the group by the time it recorded “Pale Blue Eyes” (released in 1969’s The Velvet Underground). The song represented another side of Reed’s songwriting, delicate and haunting. As re-crafted by The Kills this beautiful tune starts with a fuzzy drum that owes much to Tucker’s playing before Hince plays its lovely and spidery opening melody on guitar. Mosshart’s reading of the lyrics is fittingly detached until she gets to the titular subject and her voice cracks with just the right amount of aching.