Music review: The Kills

Alison Mosshart of The Kills
Alison Mosshart of The Kills
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The Kills started life as a stripped-down, intense affair, with guitarist Jamie Hince and singer Alison Mosshart often hunched together round one microphone. Success over the last decade has afforded them a microphone each and a license to roam, plus an augmented band, featuring two Glaswegian musicians, drummer Johnny Scott, who has worked with the likes of Mogwai and Chvrches, and Scott Paterson, formerly of Sons & Daughters, on keyboards and bass.

The Kills ***

ABC, Glasgow

So while the live sound was now more expansive, there was still a certain economy in their growling, prowling rock’n’roll style. The Kills don’t deliver songs as such, more clipped, dirty, rhythmic mantras, rooted in the blues and in punk, then built up and embellished, primarily with Hince’s heavily distorted guitars, creating a flinty tech-blues.

Mosshart, meanwhile, is a better vocalist than she ever seems to get credit for. She still sang into her fringe on occasion, though with great throaty abandon, but she has developed into more of an all-round performer – sharing another band, The Dead Weather, with Jack White will do that for you.

For ninety minutes, she strutted and jerked around to the mostly mean, low-slung blues but there was an occasional glimpse of a sweeter tone, such as the melodic valediction of Black Balloon.

The following Doing It To Death was an effective mix of ominous synth and blistering guitar but such dynamic contrasts were rare and there was a noticeable dip in quality around the halfway point of the set.

At their least engaging, their alternative take on the blues can descend into empty bellowing, a contrived posture which is probably more fun to dispense than to receive. Just as well then that Hince and especially Mosshart are compelling performers.

They lurched back on course with the compelling Love Is A Deserter, a track it is impossible not to move to.

Next, Mosshart got physical with a couple of toms, ramping up to a climactic mash-up of Pot and Pans and the slide blues punk of Monkey 23. When she returned to the stage, it was solo with an acoustic guitar, to deliver That Love, a bittersweet country-flavoured ballad of encouragement, before the rest of the band unleashed the irresistible punk voodoo of Fried My Little Brains, a great primal number on which to leave us hanging.