The Kills’ cross-Atlantic tape-exchange beginnings, followed by a stunning debut album and a few years of live shows that left audiences excitedly whispering about the pair’s sexually-charged stage presence, always seemed to beg the question: What would happen if these two art-punk buddies really got to know each other?
2005’s sophomore LP, No Wow, written and recorded in a month, had the immediacy of a first meeting; a scattered, late-night conversation that ended before anyone considered what was being said. Years later, Midnight Boom sees Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart returning to the small town in Michigan where they recorded No Wow. This time, though, they’re working with SpankRock producer Alex Epton (aka Armani XXXchange), who recreates the dusty, scrapped-together feel of past releases, while justifying a glammier, catchier sound with each bass note and drum beat, allowing Hince to focus less on propelling every tune forward with his chugging, bluesy stomp. This might help explain why songs on this album sound as daring yet structured as anything the band has ever done, but Mosshart, too, has noticeably more confidence and range. Whether she’s quietly singing a simple, mournful refrain or shouting down a wall of distortion, she leaves little room for an argument that The Kills’ impossibly cool and menacing posture is an empty one.
One might accuse them of self-mythologizing, but Hince and Mosshart (aka “Hotel” and “VV,” take that) aren’t trying to hide that intention. A phone dials in slinky opening single and possible strip-club classic ‘U.R.A Fever’, hinting at their long-distance beginnings. The closing spot is reserved for a sobering denouement after 30 minutes of fever-dream confessions — a sequencing move used quite effectively on their first two albums — while other tracks have them wearing their late-70s-obsessed hearts on their sleeves. With a gritty Polaroid catch-us-if-you-can image reinforced at every turn, on record, the Kills are aware that it doesn’t much matter if you believe whether their rock’n’roll adventure is real; if they continue to have no doubt about it themselves, they’ll make it extremely tempting for others to follow along.