How much do you reckon The Kills will earn from this, their debut album?
Enough to buy a calendar? Yes, it"s 2003 in most parts of the world, but
this music could have been recorded in any year since 1968. Feedback?
Check. Thundering riffs repeated endlessly? Check. Dirty, ragged
production? Oh yes. Any trace of modern technology whatsoever? No sir!
It's fun at first. 'Superstition' kicks the door open with malicious intent, recalling 'Rid Of Me'-era PJ Harvey. Then 'Cat Claw' tears its way into the room, all lusty and vigorous. But after that, it's recycled riffs all the way. 'Kissy Kissy' and 'Monkey 23' are little more than competent Velvets pastiches, while 'Fried My Little Brains' and 'Hand' are just Status Quo in steel-tipped stilettos. It's technically taut, but there's no original flavour, no secret ingredient to spice up that same old sound.
'Black Rooster' does its best to inflame, with VV and Hotel yelling "Kids wanna fuck and fight in the basement" in the crackliest growls they can muster. But by that point, you'll be ready for bed. And not in the way they'd hoped. "I'm not trying to wake you up" snarls VV ('Pull A U'). Why not? Shouldn't The Kills' brand of visceral rock be a sharp kick in the pants, an adrenalin shot to the heart? Otherwise what's the point?
Yeah, VV's gorgeous nicotine-ravaged voice almost carries it off. But
there are too few ideas here to really make 'Keep On Your Mean Side' worth
our devotion. Despite a few vivid moments, most of these songs come across as dusty museum pieces, a sepia snapshot of kids dressing up in their
parents' clothes, trying to capture the mysterious glamour of the olden
days. Without brilliant tunes or original twists, garage rockers are the
musical equivalent of those strange people who recreate civil war battles
on Sunday mornings in full period regalia. It's nostalgia, not art. And
when has that ever been enough?