October 18, 2020
When Florida native Alison Mosshart and Londoner Jamie Hince formed The Kills, their sound and image contrasted sharply against the standard indie rocker setup of 3-4 dudes rehashing ‘70s/’80s college rock.
With Mosshart’s ragged vocals and Hince’s scraping, fuzz-drenched guitar however, this two-person setup packed plenty of bite. Like the White Stripes, they modeled their music after American roots music, but narrowed their scope to produce a tight, focused sound that pulsed with the nervy tension of PJ Harvey and the narcotic haze of the Velvet Underground.
Keep on your Mean Side is a noisy getaway soundtrack, an homage to outlaw blues records of the past. On the punky “Cat Claw” and “Fried My Little Brains”, Hince’s guitar buzzes like a rusty chainsaw as he rips through brassy riffs that the production accentuates with a satisfying clang. Ballads like “Gypsy Death and You” place the focus on Mosshart’s vocals and add a tenderness that’s flavoured with solo-era Lou Reed melancholy.
“Kissy Kissy” is a druggy psychedelic ballad that’s very reminiscent of the Velvet Underground’s own “Venus in Furs“. Where the White Stripes were about maximizing the sound of 2 members, the spareness of the Kills’ arrangements create a stark, noirish atmosphere that few bands in this era were able to manage.