To hear them tell it, photogenic Kills principals Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince were lost before they found each other—ambitious outsiders trapped in standard-issue punk bands. Drawn together like bullied drama-club kids, Mosshart (a Floridian femme fatale) and Hince (a British Lou Reed) met in 2000 and have been inseparable, though supposedly platonic, ever since. The former art-school students have long been enamored of their own boho style, and on their third album, Midnight Boom, they start by walling themselves off from the white-bread masses: “We are a fever/We ain’t born typical,” the pair sings, happily quarantined on opener “U.R.A. Fever.”
The track’s doom-blues guitar and heavy electronic pulse recall No Wow, the duo’s 2005 sophomore effort, and while several of the new songs would fit on that record, today’s Kills spend less time on Highway 61, looking for places to plug in their drum machines. “Last Day of Magic” remains steeped in delta imagery—bad love brings tornadoes and hurricanes—but the sickly, mournful guitar lead is closer to X’s “White Girl,” Americana of a different sort. Elsewhere, over deadpan hip-hop beats, the Kills pay homage to 1960s playground chants, if only for the excuse to make mantras of their self-consciously dark lyrics.
This album should put an end to any lingering White Stripes comparisons, as it illustrates what sets Mosshart and Hince apart. More glamorous but less versatile, the Kills are the easier listen, particularly if their superficiality is taken to be deliberate.
The Kills play Webster Hall May 1, websterhall.com.