the kills - keep on your mean side album cover

Rough Trade, 2003

The Kills

Keep on Your Mean Side

★★★★☆

Outlaw rock 'n roll split evenly between lo-fi guitar crunch and lonesome bandit blues

October 18, 2020

REVIEW

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.