THE KILLS + Scout Niblett @ Café Campus

By Alex - Losing My Edge - 04/08/2005

If there's anything harder for a gimmick band than releasing a sophomore effort, it's touring for it. While the Kills, to their credit, have managed to create a somewhat interesting sound from their post-White Stripes inception, the burden of proof that they still warrant further attention three years later lies squarely on their shoulders. Armed with generally positive response to their follow-up album No Wow and a drum machine, the confident blues-damaged London-based duo stepped up to the plate in front of a capacity crowd, aiming for the fences.

The show had been moved from Petit Campus upstairs to Café Campus just a week before. What had been gained in larger space was lost in rock n' roll scheduling, with an imposed 11pm curfew hovering over our heads. As a result, Scout Niblett's set was slated for the unenviable 9:00-9:30 slot, on a Friday night no less. For what little was caught, it seemed interesting conceptually. Her vocals veered into Cat Power territory and the riffs came in unexpected fragmented bursts, but quite frankly, the elements conspired against her having a more engaging and rewarding set.

The Kills started in a subdued matter with the title track of their new release No Wow, draped in black and red lighting and building until the climactic ending of the song. The stage was now set and they immediately launched into "Cat Claw", arguably one of the better songs off their debut full-length Keep On Your Mean Side. As dirty and sexy as that track sounds on the album, it was much more high-spirited here as Hotel's guitar came alive while VV swayed with effortless cool. As far as frontwomen go, she was closer to PJ Harvey than, say, Karen O. For what is purported -- perhaps cynically -- to be essentially a gimmick, it was a natural performance. Sure, it might have been calculated but the beauty with the Kills is that they make you believe that it isn't.

While they did look great, the sound didn't quite catch up to the stage performance. The guitar and backing tracks mostly drowned out VV's vocals and while that could be perceived as an unsurmountable negative in most contexts, it sort of clicked. Perhaps it was the stage lighting that conjured up images of Velvet Underground/Suicide performances, perhaps that Hotel's licks were so delightful that you didn't mind. Still, it was the fine difference between being pleasantly entertained and being fuckin' blown away. To be fair, they did make great use of the aforementioned drum machine, adding a kick to their more languishing songs. Possibly as a sign of things to come, that third member of the band featured more prominently in a new song they unveiled called "My Passion Is Accurate", bringing forth a more quasi-electronic aspect to the Kills sound.

As they settled into an encore -- notably featuring the anthemic "Black Rooster" -- at a time most shows would begin at, the audience had been won over. The Kills had a sexual chemistry that supplied the backbone to their performance and they rocked out a handful of good songs to boot. The kids were now ready to fuck and fight.

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